Senate Republicans, trying to head off House-passed legislation requiring total divestiture of U.S. holdings in South Africa, unveiled a bill Monday that would impose a wide variety of milder sanctions, including the withdrawal of U.S. landing rights for South African airplanes.
Democrats instantly condemned the bill, drafted by Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), as too weak. A spokesman said that Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) will try to amend the measure when it comes before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, beginning today.
In addition to revoking landing rights in the United States for South African Airways, Lugar's bill would also:
Prohibit imports of steel, uranium, aluminum, coal and cement from South African state-owned companies; give President Reagan new authority to sell U.S. gold reserves and thus depress the world price of gold, a move that would hurt the South African gold mining industry; restrict visas for employees of the South African government or state-owned businesses; freeze assets of the South African government or government employees in U.S. banks and restrict new investment in South African companies that do not recognize the so-called Sullivan principles, which guarantee the rights of black employees.
Would Extend Reagan Curbs
The bill would also make permanent the sanctions imposed by President Reagan last year. Those measures, which include a ban on Krugerrand sales in the United States, are due to expire Sept. 9.
The President would be given the authority under Lugar's bill to lift the sanctions if the South African government accomplished any two of the following acts: free black nationalist Nelson Mandela; lift the current state of emergency; legalize all political parties, including the African National Congress, or repeal the Home Areas Act under which blacks are relegated to tribal "homelands," depriving them of South African citizenship.
Mark Helmke, Lugar's spokesman, said that the measure imposes "tough new sanctions that send the right message to both blacks and whites in South Africa."
Lugar, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, drafted the measure in an effort to dampen growing bipartisan support for stiffer sanctions--including a bill passed by the House that would impose a comprehensive trade embargo on South Africa and require all U.S. companies to leave there within 180 days after the bill became law.
Reagan Opposition Seen
Reagan is expected to oppose Lugar's bill. Helmke said Lugar fashioned the measure in hopes that it would win the support of a two-thirds majority in the Senate that would be needed to override a presidential veto.
Helmke said he believes that Reagan has authority now to impose most, if not all, of the sanctions contained in the new legislation. But Reagan in recent weeks has reasserted his opposition to such measures.
Democrats were particularly disappointed that the Lugar measure does not freeze all South African assets in U.S. banks--a move that would penalize whites who are moving their wealth out of South Africa. Democrats are expected to propose such a freeze as an amendment to the Lugar bill.
Meanwhile, Sen. Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.) confirmed that he is being considered at the White House as a possible special envoy to South Africa. As an alternative, he said, White House officials also are considering sending a bipartisan delegation to Pretoria.
But Laxalt confessed that he is skeptical that such a mission could bring about a change in the government's policy there. "Right now," he said, "I don't see where Paul Laxalt can help."