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De Klerk denies government role in South Africa massacre, seeks talks


PRETORIA, South Africa -- President F. W. de Klerk rejected charges yesterday that his government is responsible for South Africa's staggering violence and said he would welcome international observers to monitor the country's political transition.

Responding to the breakdown of negotiations on constitutional change, Mr. de Klerk called on the African National Congress to attend an urgent two-day meeting to discuss differences between the ANC and his government.

"These talks should have as their purpose the resumption of negotiations to bring about a united, non-racial and democratic South Africa as soon as possible," he said at a news conference. "That is what we are working for."

The ANC pulled out of the negotiations Tuesday, saying that the government must take steps to curb the violence in black townships and meet a list of other demands to show it is serious about negotiations. ANC leaders also began suggesting yesterday that South Africa should not participate in the Barcelona Olympics next month, if the political crisis is not resolved.

Mr. de Klerk appeared to be trying to draw the ANC back to the negotiating table but at the same time take a tough stand against the major accusations directed at his government.

The accusations of state-sponsored violence were stepped up after a massacre in the black township of Boipatong last week.

"The charges of government complicity in the massacre are without any foundation whatsoever and we find it reprehensible," the president said, adding that he was disappointed and angry at the ANC's tactics.

He countered that the ANC was at fault for launching a campaign of mass demonstrations. Mr. de Klerk maintains that the mass protests contribute to tensions in the country.

In a swift and harsh response to the president, the ANC issued a statement saying that Mr. de Klerk's political party, the National Party, did not appreciate "the depth of the crisis it has plunged the country into."

It the said the president's proposal "falls far short of what the situation warrants."

David Welsh, a political analyst at the University of Cape Town, said it appeared Mr. de Klerk was trying to be conciliatory. He also said the ANC's demands had been "quite moderate" and in line with recommendations already made by the Goldstone Commission of Inquiry to curb violence.

The commission is investigating violence and charges of police involvement in the Boipatong killings.

"The ANC is not seriously in the business of pulling out of negotiations," Mr. Welsh said, virtually echoing the ANC's own statement. The ANC said it was forced to pull out because it believed the government was trying to negotiate a deal that would maintain white rule.

In saying he would welcome international observers, Mr. de Klerk said he was referring to fact-finding missions that could give advice or recommendations but would have no authority to interfere in the country's affairs.

South Africa consistently has rejected "outside interference" from organizations such as the United Nations, while most black political groups insist that independent monitors would be an asset.

The president also said he had asked that a "qualified person of international repute" be added to the Goldstone Commission.

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