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Pretoria forced to accept UN 'interference'

THE United Nations Security Council debate on South Africa next week marks another wedge in the door which Pretoria has tried to keep closed against the internationalisation of its political process. The breakdown between the parties is now so critical, however, that the government has been forced to tolerate an increasing role for outsiders.

The UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, has scheduled the Security Council debate for Wednesday and offered to send Cyrus Vance, the former US Secretary of State, on a visit to South Africa to see what role, if any, the UN could play there. The African National Congress will welcome the move but the prospect of both the debate and the visit is repugnant to Pretoria, which has persistently resisted what it regards as 'foreign interference'.

But the government craves international acceptance: President F W de Klerk has journeyed extensively in the past two years, enjoying red-carpet treatment by former enemies.

He would like a 'goodwill' mission from the UN, preferably one urging the ANC to return to the negotiating table. The ANC, on the other hand, want a strong UN resolution blaming the government for the breakdown in the Codesa constitutional talks in May. It would like UN monitors to be sent to South Africa.

The debate is likely to be confrontational, with the nine African foreign ministers due to speak reiterating the ANC's complaints, and the government rebuffing them. It marks the end of the two-year period in which all parties pledged to devise a new constitution, while the rest of the world stood on the sidelines. Now the world is lining up to visit South Africa and to push the negotiating process back on to the rails.

James Baker, the US Secretary of State, has said he may visit shortly. Last week the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, went there. He proposed that a group of Commonwealth eminent persons should assist in reinforcing the National Peace Accord and act as intermediaries. A visit by the foreign ministers of Portugal, Britain and the Netherlands is planned.

Pretoria dislikes the idea of international 'monitors' but accepts the possibility of international 'observers'. In a letter to Nelson Mandela last week, Mr de Klerk conceded that 'the role of the international community in an observer capacity could be considered' in relation to a joint monitoring body of the government, the ANC and the Inkatha party to try to reduce the violence.

One area where the South African government has accepted a foreign role is on the Goldstone Commission, set up to investigate causes of the violence. At the suggestion of Mr de Klerk and the South African Police, a former British policeman and a former Indian chief justice have been included in the commission.