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House Approves U.S. Sanctions on S. Africa : Pretoria Warns of Economic Retaliation

Times Staff Writer

Faced with American economic sanctions over its policies of racial segregation, South Africa is threatening retaliatory measures, including an embargo on strategic minerals and metals and the forced repatriation of about 1 million black workers to neighboring countries.

Deputy Foreign Minister D.J. Louis Nel has told a meeting of the ruling National Party that South Africa is considering steps to protect itself from the sanctions and to demonstrate that it cannot be pushed around.

‘Pushing for More’

“If legislation goes through the U.S. Congress this week, our enemies will be back next year pushing for more,” Nel said. “Therefore, it is necessary to put our foot down now. The Americans must be made to realize that if they go ahead with disinvestment, South Africa will have to defend itself, and it will have to consider defending itself in a way that shows the world that South Africa is a regional power in Africa.”

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In Washington, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted Wednesday for economic sanctions against South Africa. The sanctions would not become law, however, until the bill is approved by the Senate and signed by the President.

One of South Africa’s options, Nel said, is the expulsion of about 1 million blacks from neighboring countries who work here without government permission. Their forced repatriation would cause severe social, economic and perhaps political problems in Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

According to Western diplomats here, South Africa would try to put the blame for the action on the United States.

But other government officials sought Wednesday to play down Nel’s threat, describing it as one of a range of policy options to be studied when the full impact of the U.S. sanctions is clear, and as a step to be weighed carefully against South Africa’s desire for better relations with its neighbors in black Africa.

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If the sanctions should deepen the recession here and increase unemployment among South Africa’s black workers, Nel said in an explanatory statement, the government might have to use “more intensive methods to repatriate these illegal laborers in an organized manner.”

The 350,000 blacks working here under contracts with neighboring states would apparently not be affected.

Boycotts, Embargoes

Another option, according to Raymond Parsons, the chief executive officer of the South African Assn. of Chambers of Commerce, is economic countermeasures, particularly trade restrictions, boycotts and embargoes.

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“All the big overseas economies rely heavily on South Africa for supplies of vital strategic minerals,” Parsons said Wednesday, “and several would have serious problems if the pipeline were frozen.”

The United States is heavily dependent on South Africa for a number of industrially important minerals and metals, such as chrome, platinum and molybdenum. But business sources pointed out that the United States has substantial stockpiles of many of these materials, that there are alternative--if more expensive--sources, and that South Africa needs the foreign currency it earns from these exports.

Nonetheless, sentiment here is clearly rising for a stronger response to the campaign for economic sanctions in the United States--and now in Western Europe. The government of President Pieter W. Botha is under criticism from its own supporters for failing to deal adequately with the sanctions threat.

‘Arrows in Our Quiver’

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“People have been told these measures would have a tremendous impact on the South African economy, which just is not so in the short run,” said a European banker who has followed reaction to the campaign closely, “and now, as a consequence, they need to be reassured, firstly, that their government will not allow itself to be pushed about and, secondly, that it does indeed have a plan to deal with this threat.”

Parsons commented: “So far, there has been more rhetoric than action, but the time has arrived for sharp realism. Fortunately, we have a few arrows in our quiver that can be used to good effect. Obviously, we would prefer to avoid disinvestment and sanctions, but we are not without remedies if the worst happens. We can handle it if we plan properly.”

He declined to discuss what he described as “several tricks up our sleeve.”

Government radio made the same point in its daily political commentary early this morning: “Whatever comes of the present moves (in the United States), this country must have a clear idea of its options. It must be prepared to respond appropriately and effectively to action designed essentially to undermine its internal stability and international security.”

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