Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on Thursday rejected a call for immediate sanctions against South Africa, saying she needs time to consider a Commonwealth report that urges such measures as the only way to avert greater violence in that country.
Thatcher told the House of Commons that time is "needed for all concerned, including the South African government, to consider the report."
Wednesday's publication of the report, which was prepared by prominent citizens of seven Commonwealth countries, has put strong pressure on the Thatcher government to drop its resistance to tough economic sanctions against South Africa.
The report concludes that strong, concerted diplomatic and economic pressure on South Africa to begin sweeping changes could be the last chance to avert the worst bloodbath since World War II.
The Canadian government, apparently in response to the report, announced a series of four limited measures against South Africa. It said it will stop buying South African products, urge compliance with a voluntary ban on promotion of tourism to South Africa and bar entry to four South African diplomats accredited to Canada but based in the United States.
The 116-page Commonwealth report was drafted by a so-called Eminent Persons Group headed by Malcolm Fraser, the former prime minister of Australia, and Olusegun Obasanjo, the former Nigerian head of state. Other members in the group represented Britain, India, Canada, Barbados and Tanzania.
The heads of government of the seven countries represented in the group are to meet here in August to consider what action should be taken.
At a news conference Thursday at which the report was formally made public, Fraser told reporters that sanctions would be in the best interest of the countries that have been reluctant to impose them.
Fraser said that South Africa is sliding rapidly into deeper violence. He said that South Africa's blacks will see in the report further confirmation of the South African government's intransigence on reform.
Fraser warned that unless steps are taken to head it off, there could be a long guerrilla campaign leading to a radical black government that would owe allegiance to the people who had armed it.
Such a government, he said, would quickly nationalize any Western economic interests still in the country.
"And in those circumstances, the commercial interests of Britain would be destroyed absolutely," he said.
Britain is by far South Africa's most important economic partner in the Commonwealth. British investments in South Africa are valued at around $10 billion, and trade between the two countries in the first 10 months of last year was more than $4 billion.
Britain's failure to agree to sanctions has created severe tension among the 49 members of the Commonwealth. President Kenneth D. Kaunda of Zambia has threatened to pull out of the Commonwealth unless action is taken soon.
In South Africa, Foreign Minister Roelof F. (Pik) Botha said of the Commonwealth group: "They made a fatal error. They see economic measures as a peaceful way to effect change, while we see it as a violent measure. How could the purposeful creation of unemployment be a peaceful measure?"