South African Envoy Meets French Premier
PARIS (AP) _ Foreign Minister Roelof Botha of South Africa met Friday with Premier Jacques Chirac, who called for an end to apartheid and freedom for all political prisoners in South Africa, Chirac’s office said.
Botha is making a 48-hour private visit to France. Socialist President Francois Mitterrand is on an official trip to South America, and there has been speculation he opposed plans by Chirac’s conservative government to have high-level talks with Botha.
In a statement, Chirac’s office said the meeting with Botha did not reflect any sympathy with the South African government.
″Mr. Chirac recalled once again to Mr. Botha that France condemns the apartheid system without reservation and calls for the establishment of a democratic and multiracial society in South Africa,″ the statement said.
″Mr. Chirac also reiterated France’s consistent position in favor of the liberation of all political prisoners in South Africa.″
Under South Africa’s system of apartheid, the nation’s 25.6 million blacks have no voice in national affairs and the 5 million whites control the economy and maintain separate schools, districts and health services.
Later Friday, Botha met with Foreign Minister Jean-Bernard Raimond, the Foreign Ministry announced. It said Bernard also reminded Botha of France’s opposition to apartheid.
The French press was filled with reports of a rift between the Socialist president and the conservative premier following Mitterrand’s statement that he was informed of the talks only hours before Botha’s arrival Thursday.
Some reports quoted Mitterrand’s aides in Argentina as saying the president was unhappy with Botha’s visit.
But Mitterrand told reporters in Buenos Aires on Friday that there was ″nothing extraordinary″ about the meeting ″if this occasion, as I believe, is used to dot the ″i″s″ of French policy.
″The fact of receiving the foreign minister of a country with which, in spite of the multiple difficulties, France has diplomatic relations is not reprehensible,″ he said.
Relations between South Africa and France have been poor. Until last week, Mitterrand had refused to accept the creditentials of South Africa’s new ambassador, Hendrik Geldenhuys.
Relations improved slightly after the Sept. 7 release of a Frenchman who had been held in South Africa for refusing to testify at a terrorism trial. He was freed in a prisoner exchange involving several countries.
The Botha visit has been opposed by leftist opposition parties and labor unions. Andre Rossinot, the minister for relations with Parliament, said the talks with Botha were ″a means of putting pressure (on South Africa) for reform.″