While many white Rhodesians seem to agree with Prime Minister Abel Muzorewa that new elections would be "an insult," others are encouraged at Britain's apparent willingness to take an activist role to solve the Zimbabwe-Rhodesian problem.
With peace and international approval still eluding this war-racked country, reaction to the British call for a conference, a new constitution and new elections has been one of measured calm, not outright rejection.
A senior official in the all-white Rhodesian Front Party, Andre Holland, urged whites to "sit tight and keep cool, as we have done so often in the past."
The party's leader, former prime minister Ian Smith, said, "I would say, let's just wait and see."
Many whites appear to join Muzorewa in his opposition to a second election, saying it is a waste of time and money to repeat it.
"Who is going to pay for it?" asked one prominent whate businessman. Smith said his feeling about a fresh election was "just to forget about it all."
Some whites say they do not see a second election as the inevitable consequence of a conference.
"It all depends on who goes to it and what the proposals are," said one white close to the government.
He was touching on speculation among whites that the all-party conference is a convenient vehicle for the British government to justify recognizing the Salisbury government and lifting economic sanctions against it.
London must first be seen to be offering a genuine solution to the conference, Britain can recognize the Muzorewa government without reprisals, the argument goes.
"I don't think Margaret Thatcher has done a somesault," said one white observer. "I think she'll prove she has successfully outwitted the other fellows by getting the Commonwealth Conference to agree on this course of action for this country."
Others see the latest proposals as the best yet for a genuine solution to the Zimbabwe-Rhodesian conflict.
"It's the first set of proposals made with enough clout in them for both sides," said one white lawyer and critic of the government.
Muzorewa and his white allies, according to this man, will be inclined to go to the conference because it holds out the promise of the lifting of sanctions and recognition. The guerrilla leaders will be inclined to attend because the five African countries that support the guerrilla forces have endorsed the latest proposals. This is a combination that the U.S. and British governments acting jointly in 1977 and 1978 were not able to achieve.
"Other whites said they were encouraged by the fact that Britain now appears to be taking an activist role.
"For the first time, Britian got up and said it is a British problem and we're going to do something about it," said John Hillis, president of the Association of Rhodesian Industries.
But those who have been involved in attmepts to bring the guerilla Patriotic Front and the Muzorewa-led internal forces together are quick to point out that Britain must remain in control of the conference if it is to avoid becoming a shambles.
"There is not going to be any bargaining at this round table conference," said one white lawyer. "Britain will introduce the proposed constitution and everyone will be asked if they agree to it or not. It cannot work out any other way."
The American retreat from its high profile diplomatic role in trying to bring about a solution to the conflict is seen by many as helpful.
"I don't think U.S. has got too much leverage on either side anyway," said one close observer of the recent diplomatic efforts.
For most people, the worst fate of the proposed London conference would be for both sides to reject it.
"Then Britain will have played all its cards, and the future for this country will be too terrible to contemplate," said one white. CAPTION: Picture, IAN SMITH