JOHANNESBURG, FEB. 2 -- The African National Congress pleaded with the world community today "not to be hasty" in lifting sanctions against South Africa even as it praised President Frederik W. de Klerk's pledge Friday to scrap three of the main legislative pillars of the apartheid system of racial separation.

"Whatever changes have been brought about, or the government intends bringing about, the reality is that apartheid is still in force," ANC leader Nelson Mandela told a news conference here.

"We still have no votes. We can't be members of parliament. The state organs are still dominated by whites. The police are still harassing, persecuting, even killing, our people," he said, speaking of South Africa's 30 million blacks.

The ANC leader made a special appeal to the Bush administration and Congress, saying that "until the reality {of apartheid} changes," the sanctions imposed by the 1986 Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act "must be maintained in spite of what Mr. de Klerk has said."

De Klerk's reform process still could be reversed, Mandela warned. The dismantling of apartheid would become "irreversible" only when "we ourselves control the process," he said.

But in a formal statement reacting to de Klerk's opening speech to parliament in Cape Town Friday, the ANC "commended" the president on his new reform proposals. De Klerk said he would soon submit legislation canceling the Land Acts of 1913 and 1936, which have reserved 87 percent of all land for whites; the Group Areas Act of 1966, which enforces segregated housing and living, and the Population Registration Act of 1950, which classifies people by race.

The ANC also praised de Klerk's "Manifesto for the New South Africa," which was released at the time of his speech. The document contains a long list of basic values and principles intended to form the basis for a new non-racial, democratic constitution and political and economic system. The ANC called it "a fundamental departure from the apartheid framework which deserves recognition."

The ANC said de Klerk's proposals brought about "the narrowing of the distance between the positions" of the ruling National Party and the ANC, and this would be "of great assistance in providing a climate conducive to the elaboration of a new constitution."

But the black nationalist organization added that it was "ironic" that de Klerk still rejected the ANC's call for an elected constituent assembly and interim government, saying this amounted to an insistence that "a minority regime, which has no legitimacy in the eyes of the majority of our people, presides over the transition to democracy."

The U.S. and British governments and the European Community warmly welcomed de Klerk's announcement that his government would repeal "the remnants of racially discriminatory legislation which have become known as the cornerstones of apartheid." Some governments signaled that lifting of sanctions was now possible.

British Prime Minister John Major called upon the international community to end South Africa's isolation and lift "the restrictions which impede its economic progress."

A European Community spokesman said the 12-nation body would be free to lift all of its economic sanctions once the laws were repealed.

White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater called de Klerk's action "a big step in the right direction" toward easing U.S. sanctions. But under U.S. law, before President Bush can begin rolling back sanctions, not only must the apartheid laws be repealed but all political prisoners must be released. Bush administration spokesmen have indicated that they expect both conditions to be met by the end of April or shortly thereafter.

Mandela went out of his way today to explain that while South African whites and the outside world might regard de Klerk's promised reforms as "revolutionary," they would have relatively little impact on the daily lives of blacks here.

"Many of our people don't see why we should get excited over this," he said, referring to the repeal of the Group Areas Act. "They live in areas like Soweto. They haven't got the capacity to take advantage of the repeal."

Similarly, the repeal of the two Land Acts, he said, would mean little to blacks unless the government makes "capital and skills" available to them to take advantage of the opening of once-forbidden land.

Mandela also rejected de Klerk's proposal to include in government decision-making during a transitional period those parties willing to become involved in the negotiating process.

"We are not prepared to be co-opted into any structure where we'll assume joint responsibility for enforcing policies which are repressive," he said.

An elected constituent assembly, which the ANC is demanding and the government has rejected, would be "the ideal body" for joint rule, Mandela suggested.