Foreign Minister Botha Set to Confer with Officials from Several Countries
BERN, Switzerland (AP) _ South African Foreign Minister Roelof Botha arrived today on a surprise visit for talks with Swiss Foreign Minister Pierre Aubert and representatives of several other countries, a Swiss ministry spokesman said.
Botha requested the meeting, set for Thursday, to discuss ″South African affairs that do not concern Switzerland,″ Swiss spokesman Stephan Nellen said. Nellen, who spoke to reporters at a hastily called news briefing, did not elaborate.
Later, government spokesman Achille Casanova said Botha also would meet with other ″official foreign personalities,″ but declined to identify them or name the countries they represent.
Chester Crocker, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, arrived in Switzerland Tuesday to discuss with Botha the situation in southern Africa, State Department spokesman Robert Bruce said today.
Botha’s visit stirred speculation that negotiations are under way to free black nationalist leader Nelson Mandela, but Bruce said Crocker was not discussing such a release. On Tuesday, an Israeli official confirmed an Israel Radio report that Israel had appealed to South African authorities, and that Mandela would probably be freed within days.
However, Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, speaking today in Jerusalem, denied that Israel had appealed to South Africa to free Mandela in return for the release of Jewish activist Anatoly Shcharansky from Soviet captivity. Shcharansky was released Tuesday in Berlin and arrived in Israel later that day.
The spokesman for the South African Embassy, Rudi Appel, said he learned about Botha’s visit only through news reports.
Beeld, a pro-government South African newspaper, reported that Botha would discuss reform proposals with officials of several governments in Europe.
Under South Africa’s system of apartheid, 5 million whites deny rights to 24 million voteless blacks.