Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance said yesterday that a restoration of the U.S. ban on imports of Rhodesia's white government to yield to demands for a peaceful transition to black majority rule.
"The Carter administration attaches the highest importance to repeal" of the 1971 amendment that permits Rhodesian chrome imports in violation of U.N. economic sanctions, Vance said.
"The symbolic importance of this action cannot be overestimated," he told the State Foreign Relations African Affairs Subcommittee chaired by Sen. Dick Clark (D-Iowa).
Clark is sponsoring a bill to repeal the Byrd amendment, named for its sponsor, Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr. (Ind. Va.). He said he will ask the Foreign Relations Committee to vote on it Feb. 22 and will push for Senate action before the end of the month.
Clark predicted that the Congress would approve repeal in good part because of strong support from the administration.
Vance reiterated his Jan. 31 pledge that the United States will provide no form of aid for the white Rhodesian government of Prime Minister Ian Smith in its efforts to prevent majority rule "or to enter into negotiations which exclude leaders of the nationalist movements."
Vance also called for an early resumption of the Geneva talks on Rhodesia.
"The longer a return to Geneva is delayed the greater the likelihood that violence could break out again," the secretary said.
Vance said that repeal of the Byrd ammendment would "strengthen the hand of the United States and others who are working to find a peaceful solution to the Rhodesian problem."
"American industry is not dependent on Rhodesian chrome and repeal will not harm our economy," he said.
Rhodesian chrome is presently less than 10 per cent of U.S. consumption, State Department officials said.
Assistant secretary of State for Economic Affairs Julius L. Katz told the subcommittee that chrome prices might rise something less than 6 per cent for a short time in the United States if the Byrd amendment is repealed.
Katz said that failure to repeal the emendment would jeopardize U.S. economic relations with black African nations in addition to any successor black government in Rhodesia. Repeal is thus in U.S. economic self-interest, he said.
A black majority government is inevitable, Vance told the subcommittee. He said that the United States "has no favorites" among the black factions contending for power in Rhodesia.
Although a stainless steel industry spokesman, E. F. Endrews, told the Clark subcommittee Wednesday that he favored retaining the Byrd amendment, he conceded that U.S. industry could now survive reasonably unharmed without Rhodesian chrome.
One reason is a new processing technique which permits the use of lower-grade chrome mined in other nations instead of Rhodesia's high-grade ore.
The United States had no commercially exploitable chrome reserves. South Africa has about 1.1 billion tons of the world's commercially exploitable 1.9 billion tons of reserves, according to Katz. Rhodesia, the Soviet Union, Turkey and the Philippines are theother nations with major reserves.