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The Week Ahead: Mitterrand visit to SA aims to boost economic links

PRESIDENT Francois Mitterrand of France becomes the first Western leader to visit post-apartheid South Africa when he flies in today, and he will be the first to address South African MPs in Cape Town since Harold Macmillan made his 'Wind of Change' speech in 1960.

The two-day visit is intended as much to add lustre to the closing months of Mr Mitterrand's term as to boost the slender economic links between the two countries. Only some 90 French companies operate in South Africa, compared with more than 1,000 British firms. Mr Mitterrand will visit Khayelitsha township near Cape Town to open an electrification project partly funded by France.

He will talk to President Nelson Mandela about the Franco-African summit in November, as well as about economic matters.

Mr Mitterrand will be back home on Wednesday in time to grant an audience to the PLO leader, Yasser Arafat, the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and Israel's Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres. The three men are to attend a ceremony at Unesco headquarters in Paris to receive the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize they were awarded in September 1993 for signing their historic peace deal.

South Africa's Vice-President FW de Klerk, meanwhile, speeds off to Germany for four days on Thursday in pursuit of investment from German business. And a British trade delegation led by Michael Heseltine heads for South Africa on Saturday.

President Bill Clinton goes on a mission to the Baltic states on Wednesday to discuss with their leaders how the United States might bolster their economies and their security. He will meet Latvia's President Guntis Ulmanis, Estonia's President Lennart Meri and Lithuania's President Algirdas Brazauskas in the Latvian capital, Riga. The summit will probably focus on the removal of 13,000 Russian troops still lingering in the three nations. The leaders hope that Mr Clinton's visit, the first by a US president since the Baltics became independent in 1991, will nudge Russia to withdraw its forces on time.

Mr Clinton will see President Lech Walesa in Warsaw on Thursday on his way to the summit of the world's seven big industrial nations, the G7, on Friday and Saturday in Naples. They will discuss world unemployment, and the opening of Japan's market to foreign competition.

Mr Clinton heads for Bonn on Sunday and thence to Berlin where he hopes to become more Kennedy-like by making a big speech at the Brandenburg Gate.

The German parliament's upper house votes on Friday on a six-month import ban on British beef because of fears of 'mad-cow disease', and on constitutional changes heralding the privatisation of the state-owned post and telecommunications company.