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S. Africa Was Asked To Destroy Arms

June 13, 1998

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) _ In the waning days of apartheid, the United States and Britain asked South Africa’s leaders to destroy any stockpiles of biological weapons intended to keep whites in power, according to testimony from a former government official.

The disclosure came Friday in a week of revelations by apartheid-era scientists, who told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that South Africa conducted secret scientific research that targeted blacks.

Former Surgeon-General Niel Knobel testified that the United States and Britain made a joint diplomatic overture to the apartheid government shortly before South Africa’s first all-race vote in 1994, a commission official said.

The two countries did not want the program to go to the African National Congress, which won the election, and asked the nation’s white rulers to destroy any stockpiles, according to media reports.

It was not clear how much the United States and Britain knew about the secret program.

Knobel also said that apartheid’s last president, F.W. DeKlerk, met with his successor, President Nelson Mandela, who agreed to kill the program.

Apartheid-era army scientists who testified before the commission have described research projects aimed at preserving white rule, including an effort to find a germ warfare agent that would kill only blacks.

One scientist, Schalk van Rensburg, testified that a shirt laced with poison was given to an ANC activist. The activist, who was not identified, unknowingly gave the garment to a friend, who then died.

The scientists said they were virtually brainwashed by government propaganda in the 1980s to believe that South Africa was on the brink of falling to communism and black rule.

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