U.S. Recalls Ambassador to Protest S. African Raids : Diplomatic Move Is Step Short of a Formal Break

Times Staff Writer

The United States recalled its ambassador to South Africa on Friday to protest the Pretoria regime’s military raid on neighboring Botswana and other recent cross-border military actions, including a foiled mission apparently intended to sabotage a U.S.-owned oil-processing facility in Angola.

By summoning Ambassador Herman W. Nickel home for “consultations,” the U.S. government adopted a diplomatic sanction recognized as only a step short of a formal break in relations. In purely diplomatic terms, it puts South Africa in the same category as Nicaragua.

It was the harshest U.S. move against South Africa since President Reagan adopted his policy of “constructive engagement,” or quiet diplomacy, toward the white-minority government.

State Department spokesman Bernard Kalb read a blistering statement denouncing South Africa for its attack early Friday in Gaborone, Botswana, on suspected bases of the African National Congress, the guerrilla organization fighting to oust the white supremacist government and end the country’s apartheid system of racial segregation.


Kalb also said the South African government has “not provided a satisfactory explanation” of reports that a South African commando team captured recently in Angola had intended to attack a Gulf Oil Co. installation in Cabinda--an Angolan enclave north of Angola proper and bounded by Zaire, Congo and the Atlantic Ocean.

“Respect for the national sovereignty of all states and the inviolability of international borders are key principles in international relations and no state can arrogate to itself the right to violate these principles,” Kalb said. “We cannot and will not condone violations of these, by whatever state, for whatever reason.”

He continued: “Such cross-border violence only complicates efforts to bring peace to the southern Africa region. This latest South African action comes against a background that raises the most serious questions about that government’s recent conduct and policy.

Administration Embarrassed


“Actions have been taken that placed at physical risk U.S. lives and property. The U.S. government rejects categorically such a policy, which is antithetical to the goal of working for negotiated solutions and an end to southern Africa’s cycle of violence.”

The Botswana attack clearly embarrassed the Reagan Administration, which has been fighting an uphill battle against congressional efforts to impose economic sanctions on South Africa. Secretary of State George P. Shultz has argued that Pretoria’s racial policies--while still repugnant to the United States--have improved in recent years, in part because of U.S. diplomatic efforts.

Kalb noted that South Africa insists that the commando team captured at Cabinda was on an intelligence-gathering mission.

Nevertheless, he said, “They have not provided a satisfactory explanation of the evidence which has come to light that the team intended to sabotage the Cabinda Gulf Oil Co. facility. In any case, we have made clear that we deplore the presence of South African armed units in Angola for any purpose as contrary to the aims of our diplomacy. We have also made clear publicly and privately in the strongest terms to the South African government that we view most seriously any threat to American citizens and property.”


Under the action announced Friday, the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria will operate under the direction of its deputy chief of mission, Walter E. Stadtler.