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Party Chief Says European Leaders Sympathetic to Gradual Reforms

June 27, 1989

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ National Party chief F.W. de Klerk said Tuesday that European leaders he met on a recent tour understand South Africa must go through a gradual process of reform.

De Klerk, designated the next president of South Africa, indicated that international pressure and economic sanctions on his country may ease ″as long as it is visible that we’re really working towards a negotiation situation.″

At the airport news conference, de Klerk did not say how he planned to engage leaders of the disenfranchised black majority in negotiations to end the apartheid system of race discrimination.

He said he gave ″no concrete agenda″ to leaders he met in Britain, West Germany, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland and the Vatican.

″Neither I, nor those whom I had discussions with, attempted to make unrealistic demands or create unrealistic expectations,″ de Klerk said.

His overall impression from the tour ″is that there is realization that what happens here must be step-by-step and that there is realization that to really have successful renewal and change in South Africa which will not affect the stability of this country the first step is to broaden and intensify the base of discussions as a phase even before what one could call a real negotiation phase.″

Opponents say Pretoria uses minor reforms to shield itself against criticism and delay the advent of black rule in South Africa.

At nearly every stop on his European tour, de Klerk was asked about the release of Nelson Mandela, leader of the outlawed African National Congress, who has been imprisoned since 1962 under a life sentence for sabotage and plotting to overthrow the government.

Asked about Mandela on Tuesday, de Klerk referred to the Sept. 6 parliamentary elections, after which he is expected to succeed President P.W. Botha.

″I want to win the election for my party and I wouldn’t like to make particular statements as to what I, in whatever position one might be, will particularly do afterward,″ de Klerk said, indicating Mandela’s release would lose him votes among right-wing whites.

Botha suffered a stroke this year and has said he will retire after the elections.

Also on Tuesday, West German Labor Minister Norbert Bluem said he had a tough encounter with Botha, with the president refusing to discuss condemned prisoners or allow him to visit Mandela.

Instead, Bluem said, Botha briefed him on economic progress in South Africa.

Bluem said he replied that human rights are not determined by ″improved living standards alone. A man does not live on bread alone.″ Bluem said Botha answered that ″he (Botha) will decide which position is the right one.″

When Bluem asked to see Mandela, Botha referred him to the minister of justice, who was not on the West German’s itinerary.

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