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Tambo Accepts British Offer for Talks

June 24, 1986

LONDON (AP) _ The British government will urge Oliver Tambo, president of the African National Congress, to suspend violence in the battle against the South African government, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said today.

Tambo was to meet today with Foreign Office Minister Lydia Chalker, a deputy to Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe.

It is the first meeting of a Cabinet official with an ANC leader, and brought Mrs. Thatcher criticism from the right wing of her Conservative Party. The ANC is outlawed in South Africa.

The purpose of the meeting ″will be to tell him (Tambo) that the suspension of violence on all sides is essential to peaceful change″ in South Africa, Mrs. Thatcher said in response to questions in the House of Commons.

Mrs. Thatcher repeated her rejection of sweeping economic sanctions against South Africa which Tambo advocates. Mrs. Thatcher has said sanctions would hurt South Africa’s black majority.

She said she would push for negotiations in South Africa when Common Market members gather for a summit meeting in the Hague on Thursday and Friday.

″I will do my level best at the European economic summit, as at the Commonwealth conference, to bring about change in South Africa through the process of negotiation between the government of South Africa and representatives of the black population on the basis of the suspension of violence,″ she said.

Thabo Mbeki, an ANC spokesman, said he considered the call for the ANC to suspend violence ″an unreasonable demand.″

″We must continue the armed struggle because the reasons we decided to take up arms have not changed,″ he said.

He said Britain negotiated the settlement that turned its break-away colony of Rhodesia into the independent black-governed state of Zimbabwe in 1980, despite a war between the white-minority government and black guerrillas.

″What choice do we have but to fight?″ he asked.

Mac Maharaj, a member of the ANC executive committee visiting London, called the invitation ″an important signal.″

He said the ANC viewed Britain as ″siding with racism″ because it refused to join the call for economic sanctions against South Africa. ″So we certainly welcome the invitation,″ he told the BBC.

″I do not think we should look at this meeting as necessarily leading to any practical outcome. What we should be probing for is to see how far the British government can move to act decisively,″ Maharaj said.

″The British government would also like to persuade us about certain positions. So I think we should treat this as an initial and preliminary meeting toward bringing about movement for pressure″ on South Africa, he said.

Tambo, in a speech to the Royal Commonwealth Society in London on Monday, appealed to the West for ″comprehensive and mandatory sanctions″ against South Africa.

He accused those who oppose sanctions of ″preparing conditions necessary to ensure what most people would want to avoid, a bloodbath.″

Without sanctions, the conflict ″will multiply itself one-hundredfold and more. Leaders of our people and other people are being held as caged animals simply because they dare to demand the liberty of our people,″ Tambo said.

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