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S. Africa unveils guidelines for prisoner release

The South African government, advancing its program of apartheid reform, announced guidelines today for the release of political prisoners and the return of exiles. The two issues are among conditions set by Nelson Mandela's African National Congress (ANC) for entering formal talks on ending apartheid and giving the vote to the five-to-one black majority.

The ANC, the main anti-apartheid group, and other black liberation movements have up to 30,000 members in exile and about 3,000 members or sympathizers serving jail terms for politically motivated crimes.

Announcing the guidelines, Justice Minister Kobie Coetsee said the white government would phase in prisoner releases and the granting of immunity from prosecution to exiles to enable their return.

The guidelines would apply to members of all political parties, but the rate of the releases and returns would be tied to adherence by the ANC to its agreement in August to suspend its 30-year armed struggle, Coetsee said in a statement.

Meanwhile on Thursday, police placed hundreds of thousands of blacks under curfew, surrounding their townships with roadblocks under new restrictions intended to curb black-on-black fighting.

The leader of the black opposition Inkatha Freedom Party, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, said the violence was the major obstacle to negotiations to include blacks in a new constitution.

But a spokesman for the ANC, Inkatha's main rival, denounced the government measures as a "high-handed, bully-boy action" and said they would only lead to more bloodshed.

Law and Order Minister Adriaan Vlok said late Wednesday the recent violence had made it "necessary to introduce extraordinary measures" in three townships outside Capetown _ Khayelitsha, Crossroads and Lingulethu.

Similar restrictions were lifted from 11 townships around Johannesburg where fighting has died down.

Vlok declared the Capetown townships "unrest areas" and said police would use their expanded powers to prevent violence.

The restrictions give police wider powers to prevent demonstrations and other forms of protest but are not as broad as those in effect during a nationwide state of emergency that was lifted in June.