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Mandela Calls for End of S. African Sanctions : Commerce: Leader of ANC cites democratic advances, says lifting curbs will aid stability, progress. Clinton urges swift action. Arms embargo would remain for now.


UNITED NATIONS — In a historic appeal, African National Congress President Nelson Mandela on Friday called on foes of apartheid around the world to lift almost all sanctions against South Africa before economic disaster blocks its march toward a multiracial democracy.

"In response to the historic advances toward democracy that have been achieved . . . and to help create the necessary conditions for stability and social progress, we believe the time has come when the international community should lift all economic sanctions against South Africa," Mandela said in his landmark speech in the grand General Assembly hall where the Pretoria regime first was made a global pariah for its official policies of racial discrimination.

Mandela's remarks were a signal that the ANC is satisfied with the progress toward dismantling apartheid and a symbolic invitation to the world to readmit South Africa to the community of nations.

Officials quickly heeded his call:

* In Washington, President Clinton applauded moves by the South African government to give blacks their first real say in governing South Africa and urged swift action to lift remaining sanctions. The President said Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown will soon lead a trade mission to South Africa.

The House was not in session, but the Senate voted to rescind a ban on U.S. support for South African loan requests at the International Monetary Fund and to allow the U.S. government to finance American exports to South Africa.

* In Ottawa, External Affairs Minister Perrin Beatty said Canada--which has led the Commonwealth movement to isolate South Africa--soon would remove its trade, investment and financial sanctions against South Africa. Australia announced that it is lifting all its sanctions, except those on arms and oil, and other Commonwealth countries were expected to follow suit.

* In Los Angeles, City Councilmen Zev Yaroslavsky and Mark Ridley-Thomas proposed that the city repeal its sanctions, which have steered tens of millions of dollars in contracts away from companies doing business in South Africa since the restrictions took effect in August, 1986. That proposal will be considered by the council Wednesday; the law would be repealed 30 days after that.

New York Mayor David Dinkins announced that he had asked his City Council to rescind its anti-apartheid sanctions against South Africa.

While Mandela's speech Friday cheered many in his homeland, formally opened the way for a dramatic shift in attitudes and practices of anti-apartheid activists around the world and raised prospects for new business activity in South Africa, there was one confusion in his plea: He was ambiguous about whether the time had also come to lift the Security Council-imposed oil embargo.

Hinting that hard-liners in his own party wanted this kept in place until a black government rules in South Africa, Mandela said the fate of the oil embargo should be left to the discretion of the United Nations.

Since he is still not an official of the South African government, Mandela was technically only reporting to the 17-member Special Committee on Apartheid. But the United Nations seized the drama of the moment by moving the committee's meeting into the General Assembly, where there is space for delegations from all 184 members of the world body.

For the global community, there has been no greater symbol of international abhorrence of white-minority rule in South Africa than the rhetoric and resolutions of the United Nations.

The General Assembly has passed anti-apartheid resolutions relentlessly since 1952, continually calling on countries to impose economic sanctions on the white-ruled country. Since 1974, the United Nations has even prevented the South African delegation from taking its place at meetings of the General Assembly.

The Security Council, whose resolutions have the force of international law, first voted an arms embargo on South Africa in 1963, made it mandatory in 1977 and strengthened it year after year, finally adding an embargo on oil, as well. Mandela made it clear Friday that he does not want the arms embargo lifted until a majority black government rules in South Africa.

While there have been doubts raised about the effectiveness of international sanctions in general, and the South African measures in particular, Mandela appeared before the United Nations just a day after the white-run South African Parliament--after years of external and internal pressure--had passed legislation creating a Transitional Executive Council of all races to supervise the government as the country prepares for its democratic, multiracial elections next April 27.

While the black leader told U.N. ambassadors and officials that "our common victory against the only system to be declared a crime against humanity since the defeat of Nazism is in sight," he also painted a dismal picture of the social and economic life of present-day South Africa.

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