Major asks Pretoria to join British peace plan for Africa

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The Independent Online
JOHN MAJOR yesterday marked the first visit to South Africa by a British Prime Minister since Harold Macmillan's 'Wind of Change' speech three decades ago, by announcing plans for a diplomatic offensive to halt regional conflict in Africa.

Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, will outline to the United Nations next week details of the initiative to set up regional peace- keeping 'cells'. Diplomats and military experts will be trained to mediate, to stop regional tensions from exploding into conflicts like the one in Rwanda. Addressing parliament in Cape Town, Mr Major announced details of a pounds 100m aid package for South Africa. He pledged Britain would create closer links and confirmed the Queen will visit South Africa in March 1995.

Closer co-operation with South Africa will be used to foster the British peace-keeping initiative. Mr Major told the Mandela government to 'pick up the phone' to speak to British ministers.

One source close to Mr Major said: 'We are not talking about troops or an African army. One has to try imaginative ideas and a bit of lateral thinking.'

Britain is prepared to send police to South Africa for training and detective work, if requested. They played a key role in conflict resolution during the run-up to the South African elections.

The visit was seen by Mr Major as a landmark in South Africa's trek back to the international community after the ending of apartheid. He told a luncheon hosted by President Nelson Mandela that his work with F W de Klerk, the Deputy President, in dismantling apartheid, was 'one of the most remarkable events of the century'.

Expressing no bitterness over British ambivalence to sanctions under the Tory government of Baroness Thatcher, Mr Mandela said Britain had strengthened his hand at difficult moments. 'I can assure you if I had complaints against the British government this would be the perfect time to voice them. The fact that I am doing nothing of the sort shows how grateful I am for what came to us below the surface,' he said.

Some veteran opponents of apartheid, including Helen Suzman were in the public gallery above the chamber to hear Mr Major's address to parliament. 'People who for much of their lives languished in prison across the bay now sit here to build South Africa as duly elected representatives. More remarkably still, they have extended the hand of forgiveness and co-operation to their former captors,' he said.

Mr Major said he wanted to 'form a fellowship' between Britain and South Africa. He promised Britain would take 'a very great stake in your future'. It will give about pounds 60m to the reconstruction programme, with pounds 30m coming from the European Union and pounds 10m from the Commonwealth Development Corporation.

Mr Major emphasised the importance of the ANC turning their backs on nationalisation of private companies and the need for South African markets to be made more open to foreign capital. But diplomats said he had not intended to imply doubt that this transformation was taking place.

(Photograph omitted)