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Cease-Fire With S. Africa Near, ANC Leader Predicts

From Associated Press

The African National Congress and the white-led government could soon negotiate a cease-fire and end decades of hostilities, a top ANC official predicted Thursday.

Meanwhile, President F.W. de Klerk declared six neighborhoods open to all races as part of the government’s plan to ease 40 years of strict residential segregation.

The six relatively small neighborhoods include one suburb each in Johannesburg and Cape Town, a rural area outside Durban and parts of three small towns--Knysna, Messina and Zuurbekom, the government said. The government opened four neighborhoods to all races in November.

Joe Slovo, an ANC leader and the head of the South African Communist Party, said the government and the ANC would seek to work out a cease-fire once they resolve several preliminary issues. Those include the return of 20,000 ANC exiles and the release of about 3,000 activists convicted of politically motivated crimes.

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“There is a good chance that if the obstacles are removed we will at a very early stage move toward . . . the negotiation of a suspension of hostilities,” Slovo said in an interview with the Associated Press and several other news organizations.

The question of violence has been one of the most contentious issues between the government and the ANC as they seek to launch discussions on drafting a new constitution and ending apartheid.

The government has called on the ANC to renounce its largely dormant guerrilla campaign in order to improve the climate for negotiations.

President Bush, who hosted ANC leader Nelson Mandela at the White House on Monday, also urged the organization to disavow violence.

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However, Mandela and other ANC leaders continue to support the armed struggle, saying it is necessary to maintain pressure on the government and also as a measure of self-defense.

The ANC, the country’s largest opposition group, has not carried out any major attacks this year. Dozens of anti-apartheid demonstrators have been killed by police fire during the same period.

The government and the ANC held their first talks in May. The two have since worked together on a document to remove the obstacles to full-scale constitutional negotiations.

The government says it approves of the document, while the ANC has requested until July 10 to respond.

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