PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA, OCT. 18 -- President Frederik W. de Klerk today lifted the four-year-old state of emergency in the province of Natal, saying political strife among rival black factions there has been reduced to "sporadic violence" that the "ordinary laws of the land" can handle.

The action completes the process de Klerk began early last June when he allowed the state of emergency to lapse in all parts of the country except Natal, where intense factional fighting was taking place.

Local leaders in Natal said violence was still a problem in black townships there but was no longer of a factional or political nature. Violent elements now tended to be strictly criminal, they said, in apparent agreement with de Klerk's description of Natal today.

Both the African National Congress and Zulu Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, whose factions took part in the Natal fighting, welcomed de Klerk's announcement, saying it would help clear the way for the start of negotiations between South African white and black leaders on a new constitution and system of government for the country.

"We hope this will be extended to eradicate the remaining obstacles, in particular the release of all political prisoners and detainees and the repeal of all security legislation," the ANC said in a statement.

Buthelezi said all black political groups had regarded the state of emergency in Natal as an impediment to negotiations and lifting it "should bring South Africa nearer to the negotiating table."

An end to the state of emergency is one of the conditions specified by Congress in the 1986 Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act for lifting U.S. sanctions against South Africa.

{In Washington, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) said the Congressional Black Caucus, of which he is a member, "must support continuation of sanctions" despite de Klerk's step, which he termed "only modest progress." Speaking on Cable News Network, Conyers said, "It simply undoes what should never have been done. . . . We are saying that pressure must continue undiminished, until such time as a truly democratic process is undertaken."}

Under emergency regulations, police were given wide powers to arrest, search and detain suspects without formal charges and for an unlimited time. Thousands of anti-apartheid activists were arrested during the emergency.

Security regulations almost identical to the state of emergency remain in force in 27 black townships around Johannesburg that the government declared "unrest areas" in August after factional violence erupted there.

Natal province, which encompasses the nominally self-governing Kwazulu homeland, headed by Buthelezi, was a virtual battleground for his Zulu supporters and the ANC. Over the last four years of virtual civil war between the two factions, more than 3,000 people were killed.

This summer, the fighting subsided in Natal but spread to black townships in the Johannesburg area, where more than 750 lives were lost over a six-week period. In mid-September, a fragile peace took hold there under the government's stringent security measures, including a nighttime curfew.

Announcing the end of the Natal state of emergency, de Klerk said at a news conference here that after intensive consultations with Natal authorities, including Buthelezi, the president concluded that the situation in the province had stabilized "to such an extent that the ordinary laws of the land are again sufficient" to maintain public order.

But he warned that if trouble breaks out again, he would not hesitate to impose the same tough security measures now in force in the 27 townships around Johannesburg.

De Klerk's decision to end the emergency in Natal came as officials there from both the ANC and Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party reported significant progress in their efforts to begin a dialogue and establish a "code of conduct" to deal with each other peacefully.

High-level ANC and Inkatha delegations met in Durban Monday to discuss a number of local "peace agreements" that had been worked out over several months. It was the third meeting between the ANC and Inkatha since Sept. 19.

"We think we are making progress," said Frank Mdlalose, who led the Inkatha delegation. "We have decided to increase the publicity about our talks to send the message to our followers that peace is a reality."

The ANC's southern Natal leader, Patrick Lekota, said factional fighting was no longer the main cause of most community conflicts. Causes of the lingering violence include activity of criminal elements, local leadership battles and undisciplined youth, he said.

Mdlalose, a Kwazulu homeland minister, said the ANC and Inkatha were seeking to work out a "code of conduct" for their respective supporters to follow. The code, he said, includes an undertaking by the ANC to stop insulting Buthelezi, a practice that infuriated his Zulu followers and, according to Mdlalose, sparked much of the violence.