British Conservative Party leader Margaret Thatcher took issue yesterday with Carter administration presure on South Africa to change its apartheid policies, arguing that this could hinder broader settlement of southern African issues.

'At the moment we need the help of South Africa to get a settlement in Rhodesia," she said during a press conference at the British embassy, adding that a settlement in Rhodesia would "do much" to further the cause of human rights in South Africa.

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who came in for praise from the Conservative leader, took a similar approach to South Africa, but the Carter administration, while including Pretoria in its diplomacy on Rhodesia, has not hesitated to criticize the South Africans on their policies of racial separation.

Thacher also said that such pressure on South Africa amounts to interterence in another country's internal affairs and argued. "I'm always expressing the moral commitment, but we can't impose it on every country."

She noted that even though, President Carter has stressed a humanrights policy, he did not hesitate to send Secretary of State Cyrus Vance to China, a country she herself visited last spring and one she characterized as not being noted for protection of civil liberties.

Thatcher, 51, was on the last day of a week-long visit to the United States in which she saw officials, business leaders and the media in New York, Houston and Washington. She met with President Carter Tuesday.

Public opinion polls and political observers say that Thatcher's Conservative Party would defeat, the Labor Party of Prime Minister James Callaghan if an election were held today.

In addition to her criticism of American initiatives in South Africa, Thatcher also had reservations about the current Anglo-American plan for a settlement in Rohodesia.

"You can't pick up a whole plan and impose it on a people and say that's that," she said, adding that negotiations are necessary.

The Anglo-American plan, presented to Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith two weeks ago, calls for a surrender of power to a British administrator and tree and impartial elections to establish a new government. A.U.N. police force would be established to keep order during the elections and the British administrator would take control of internal police functions, supplanting the existing Rhodesian force that is involved in continued engagements with black guerrillas.

Thatcher was particularly critical of disbanding the Rhodesian security force, a poin black Rhociesian natin alists and their supporters in neighboring black-ruled states have insisted upon.

British Foreign Secretary David Owen has said that a new army in Zimbabwe, the African name for Rhodesia, army would be "based on the liberatin forces" but also include "acceptable elements of the Rhodesian defense forces."

Thatcher argued taht the new government would need an efficient and dependable security force and that it would be wrong to disband the present force unless there is an equally efficient unit to replace it.

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Thatcher stressed that she and her party favor a "full democratic" settlement in Rhodesia and that she is convinced that Jan Smith "is prepared to hand over power to a black-majority goverment."