De Klerk hopeful about resuming democracy talks

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The Independent Online
Johannesburg - Three European Community ministers began a mediation mission in South Africa yesterday as President F W de Klerk expressed optimism about a quick resumption of talks on a non-racial constitution.

'I have reason to believe that within a reasonable time multi- party negotiations will be back on track,' Mr de Klerk told a conference of his National Party in Bloemfontein. 'Obviously things can still go wrong, but progress is being made on a bilateral basis with the African National Congress.'

The ANC broke off democracy talks in June after the Boipatong massacre of 43 blacks, plunging the country into its worst crisis since Mr de Klerk began dismantling apartheid in February 1990.

Douglas Hurd, the British foreign secretary, and Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, the Danish foreign minister, arrived yesterday with Jose Barroso, the Portuguese Secretary of State for Co-operation, on a two-day trip that will include separate meetings with Mr de Klerk and Nelson Mandela.

'We are here as friends and to make suggestions as friends,' Mr Hurd told reporters on his arrival. 'It's not for Europeans to come and bang people's heads together in South Africa.' He said South Africans had to find their own solutions, and added: 'We are here to update ourselves.'

The ANC's national executive committee yesterday ended a three-day meeting at which they discussed resuming talks.

The ANC Secretary-General, Cyril Ramaphosa, had three meetings with the Constitutional Development Minister, Roelf Meyer, last month on ways of getting the talks restarted.

The government says that it has addressed most of the ANC's conditions for resuming negotiations, including a shake-up of the police and involvement of international bodies in monitoring township violence. The ministers from the European Community are scheduled to meet Judge Richard Goldstone, who is heading an inquiry into the township violence in which about 13,000 blacks have been killed in eight years.

BRUSSELS - Britain said yesterday it would lead an EC fact-finding mission to Somalia this week as criticism mounts of poor co-ordination of international famine relief to the east African state. Mr Hurd and the other EC ministers in South Africa are due to fly to the Somali capital Mogadishu, with a stopover in Kenya. 'It will probably be a one-day visit on Friday,' a spokesman at Britain's diplomatic mission to the EC said.