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ANC agrees to open talks in South Africa

Published Oct. 16, 2005

The African National Congress said Friday it will send a delegation tohold talks with President Frederik de Klerk in order to remove remaining obstacles to negotiations for a new political order in South Africa.

The ANC, the main black nationalist organization fighting white-minority rule and the government's system of racial separation known as apartheid, also accepted de Klerk's offer to resume its activities in South Africa.

The decision, taken by the ANC's executive committee during a two-day meeting at its exile headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia, means that direct formal contacts between the ANC and the government may begin within a few weeks, if not sooner, launching what is certain to be a protracted negotiating process.

The executive committee decided that its exiled leaders and members should return to South Africa as soon as possible and that preparations would begin immediately.

It called de Klerk's decision to legalize black opposition parties "an important factor" that contributed to a climate conducive to negotiations and said it viewed "in a positive light" other actions he announced Feb. 2, including the lifting of press restrictions, the end of restrictions on activists and suspension of the death penalty.

But the organization made no concessions on its main demands that all political prisoners be released and the state of emergency lifted before the ANC begins negotiations with the government on a new political system to replace the present one based on apartheid.

Nor did it change its position on the principle of continuing armed struggle until the two sides open formal talks. The number of ANC guerrilla attacks has already dropped significantly, however.

The ANC's willingness to meet with de Klerk immediately seemed to lay the basis for the start of a process of direct talks between the government and the ANC within the coming weeks.

There was no indication from the ANC statement what role Nelson Mandela, the organization's most famous leader, who was released from prison Sunday after nearly 28 years, will be given in that process. He is planning to consult with the exiled ANC leadership in Lusaka next week.

"They (the ANC) might want me to meet Mr. de Klerk and convey certain messages," Mandela said.

- Information from AP was used in this report.