‘Constructive Engagement’ a Failure in South Africa, Commonwealth Says

Times Staff Writer

The Commonwealth heads of government concluded their conference Tuesday by declaring that the United States’ policy of “constructive engagement” toward South Africa has failed.

They unanimously agreed that the Reagan Administration policy--maintaining economic links with South Africa while encouraging it to reform its racial separation policies--"had failed to end South Africa’s intransigence . . . over apartheid.”

The communique issued by the association of Britain and its former colonies came two days after the heads of government agreed on a statement of policy toward South Africa. The policy calls for immediate imposition of limited sanctions.

However, all but one of the sanctions--a ban on importing South Africa’s Krugerrand gold coins--have already been imposed by most members.

If no progress is made on dismantling apartheid within six months, the Commonwealth nations declared, they will consider “the adoption of further measures.”


However, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said Britain will not go with stronger sanctions, removing most of the teeth from the threat.

Despite holding out on this point, Thatcher joined Tuesday in the criticism of Reagan’s policy of constructive engagement.

Britain also held out on a communique provision calling for “an immediate halt to the testing of nuclear weapons.”

A British official said his government opposes linking the question of testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, which is banned by treaty, to the permitted underground testing of nuclear devices.

In other matters, the communique expressed deep concern over international terrorism and called on all governments to prevent their territory from being used as bases for terrorists.