British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, waging a lone war on sanctions against South Africa, told the Commonwealth summit on Wednesday that such measures are "utterly irresponsible," officials said.
Other nations in the 49-member grouping of Britain and its former colonies, including Canada and host Malaysia, pressed for continued or stronger embargoes. Proponents said that sanctions have forced President F. W. de Klerk to promise reforms and release black nationalist leaders.
The exchanges on the weeklong summit's opening day heralded a new confrontation over South Africa, which quit the Commonwealth in 1961.
"We are much more likely to achieve our aim by giving encouragement than by trying to behave as if nothing significant has happened," Thatcher reportedly told a closed session of the summit.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed of Malaysia said sanctions "must not only continue but must be escalated" to force an end to apartheid, the official policy of racial segregation.
Debate on the issue continues today.