France proposed a resolution today under which the Security Council would call for the immediate lifting of the state of emergency in South Africa and the unconditional release of all detainees.
The draft would urge nations to suspend all new investment in and export loans to South Africa, as well as various other economic sanctions -- all of them voluntary.
"The international community expects action from us that is both firm and realistic," said French Ambassador Claude de Kemoularia in urging unanimous support for his text.
But both the United States and Britain cautioned against such sanctions, calling them ineffective and damaging to the country's black majority. Both were expected to abstain in the vote, the same stand they took on a similar resolution urging voluntary sanctions, adopted on June 19, during a debate on the South African-ruled territory of Namibia.
"Extreme measures would not produce results," said U.S. Ambassador Vernon Walters, in his first substantive statement to the Security Council since he took over the U.N. post in May.
"There are those who say we have not done enough to pressure the South African government," he said, "and no significant change can be effected without totally isolating Pretoria economically and politically. The United States firmly believes, however, that such isolation will lead to more bloodshed, to increased autarky of the South African economy, a curtailment of external influence to effect change and, in the end, to greater suffering for the very people we are all trying to help."
Walters said, "U.S. policy has teeth. We believe our actions have had an effect."
The French proposals also include bans on the import of South African Krugerrand gold coins, on new contracts in the nuclear field, and on all sales of computer equipment that could be used by the South African Army or police. All of these sanctions were framed in language that fell short of mandatory measures, leaving individual governments without a legal obligation to act upon them.
In addition to the freeing of detainees held under the emergency regulations imposed in 36 districts since last Sunday, the draft resolution called on South Africa to free all political prisoners, specifically Nelson Mandela, a black leader who has been held for more than 20 years.
The Soviet Union and some African diplomats expressed reservations on the French text, arguing that it fell far short of minimum action required. The Africans also were irritated by the French action in co-opting the issue and presenting it to the Security Council without advance consultation.
South African Ambassador Kurt von Schirnding warned that "nothing this council may say or plan will deter us from doing what we believe is in the best interests of all the peoples of South Africa."
He insisted that the white minority government's policy of gradual reform had been sincere, but that "the violence had passed beyond the point that it could be brought under control by normal police actions." He said the state of emergency would be lifted as soon as the violence diminishes.