President Frederik de Klerk has accepted an invitation to attend a meeting of African heads of state, apparently reaping a first reward from some of apartheid's staunchest foes for freeing Nelson Mandela. "It is confirmed that State President F.W. de Klerk ... will make a one-day visit to Zaire ... in order to attend a meeting of a number of African heads of state," the president's spokesman said in a statement Monday.
The meeting was set for Saturday.
It will be the first time a South African head of government meets a group of African leaders since the ruling white National Party came to power in 1948.
Political analysts said the invitation to De Klerk to attend the Zaire meeting appeared to be the first African diplomatic reward for his Feb. 2 decisions to lift the ban on the ANC and other political organizations and release Mandela.
Government officials said it was not known which African heads of state would attend the meeting. But government sources said it would be chaired by Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko.
They said Mobutu's invitation to de Klerk could be seen as a reward for Pretoria's recent efforts to break the logjam in South African politics and move away from racial discrimination.
South Africa has been increasingly isolated internationally over the past decade and was particularly shunned by its black African neighbors. Now de Klerk's initiatives have begun to reap rewards.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has invited him to London and President Bush has indicated he could soon be welcome in Washington.
De Klerk has met Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano and President Felix Houphouet-Boigny of the Ivory Coast since forcing his predecessor Pieter Botha from office last year.
Mandela, meanwhile, prepared for a round of international travel to lobby for support and said he wanted to discuss sanctions with Thatcher.
The African National Congress leader told British television he had a suggestion for Thatcher, who wants to lift some sanctions to encourage Pretoria, but gave no details.
"My intention is to phone and speak to the British premier on this question. We regard the attitude of the British government on the question of sanctions as of primary importance," said Mandela, who wants sanctions to remain.
"I have a suggestion to make and if I get clearance from the (ANC) national executive, I will do that immediately," he said.