France's new foreign minister, Claude Cheysson, in a major change in foreign policy direction, gave assurances today of diplomatic and political support o African liberation movements.

Cheysson, attending African Liberation Day ceremonies at the United Nations Economic and Social Council, said French support would be offered to "all those who struggle for democracy and the dignity of man."

Cheysson, 61, a former European Community commissioner of Third World affairs, said he was glad to rediscoer "old friends" at the ceremonies who "know that we are engaged by the same thoughts, the same hopes and the same struggle."

Delegates at the ceremony, which was part of a UNESCO conference on sanctions against South Africa, have been openly rejoicing at the election of Socialist President Francois Mitterrand after growing disillusionment among Africans with former president Valery Giscard d'Estaing's policy on Africa.

Cheysson did not repeat the promises of French support for sanctions against South Africa made last week by Socialist first secretary, Lionel Jospin. Cheysson left little doubt, however, that the Socialists wanted to wipe out policies of the previous French government that Africans had criticized, including policies on immigrants and political refugees.

He made a "solemn" recognition of the contribution to French growth made by immigrant workers and said it would be unjust to make them bear the weight of any constraints.