U.S. officials, after two days of talks in Europe with the South African government, said yesterday they expect major changes in South Africa's policy soon.
National security affairs adviser Robert C. McFarlane, who led the U.S. delegation the first of the two days of meetings in Vienna, Austria, briefed President Reagan on the talks.
White House spokesman Larry Speakes commended South Africa for considering the views of the United States and other western governments, and said "some specifics" in policy changes had been discussed in the sessions. U.S. officials refused to be specific.
"I would think we are encouraged by what we are hearing," Speakes told reporters.
State Department officials were cautious in their interpretation, citing the complex political and security situation in South Africa. The officials said there is a widespread belief that Prime Minister P.W. Botha will announce new policies Thursday in an address to a regional conference of the ruling National Party but that is not certain.
"Some very blunt messages" were exchanged by the delegations, according to an informed official. He said both South African internal developments and issues in the southern Africa region were discussed intensively by the two groups Thursday and yesterday.
In nearly identical statements, the White House and State Department said the meetings were "important in providing candid U.S. views of the situation in South Africa and the neighboring countries." The statements also noted that "this is a time of considerable activity in terms of a South African government policy review." The White House statement said, "We expect this process in South Africa to continue for a matter of days, perhaps weeks."
Foreign Minister Roelof (Pik) Botha, who headed the South African delegation to the talks, met separately in Vienna with a senior official of the British Foreign Office, who was identified in news accounts as Ewan Fergusson.
Botha then flew to Frankfurt for talks with a senior representative of the West German government.
In Frankfurt, Botha denied reports that he had been given an ultimatum by the U.S. delegation to end the state of emergency and change the apartheid system of racial segregation.
"The Americans have not presented us with an ultimatum. It is not their style to do so. There is no need," Botha told reporters. "We have never been anything but good friends."
A host of speculative reports attributed to South African and congressional sources by various news organizations described a wide range of proposals said to be under discussion within the Pretoria government.
These included lifting of the state of emergency, granting limited citizenship and political rights to some blacks, offering blacks a role in the central government, scrapping quasi-independent tribal homelands that the prime minister has been touring, easing travel restrictions on blacks and freeing dissident Nelson Mandela.
None of these reports could be confirmed in Washington.
After the meetings in Vienna, the State Department said the United States is "profoundly disturbed" by the situation in Durban, where blacks and Indians have clashed in what has become the worst violence since political unrest erupted in South Africa 11 months ago.
Spokesman Bernard Kalb said that in the face of rising racial polarization, it is "imperative" for the South African government and black leaders to "take steps to forstall such confrontations" as have recently happened.
"It is also urgent that there be a dialogue between black leaders and the government aimed at restoring order throughout South Africa and introducing reforms that will permanently bring peace to the townships and to all of the country," Kalb added.
The Vienna meetings were initiated by South Africa, which asked for a high-level conference to inform the U.S. administration of "important decisions" soon to be made in Pretoria.
Assistant Secretary of State Chester A. Crocker and Ambassador to South Africa Herman W. Nickel, who took part in both days of Vienna talks, are expected to return to Washington today, officials said.