WASHINGTON -- South African President F. W. de Klerk, invoking the messages of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., arrived here yesterday for talks with President Bush on ways the United States can encourage his country's transition to non-racial democracy.
The visit, the first time a South African head of state has been invited to the White House in four decades, marks the Bush administration's appreciation for what a senior official described Friday as Mr. de Klerk's "very imaginative and bold moves" away from apartheid.
But the transition has been too slow to satisfy anti-apartheid activists in the United States. The Congressional Black Caucus announced Saturday that it had canceled a scheduled meeting with Mr. de Klerk. Randall Robinson, head of the anti-apartheid group Trans-Africa, has called Mr. Bush's plan to meet with Mr. de Klerk a "tragic mistake."
Mr. de Klerk's meeting today with Mr. Bush occurs against the backdrop of a surge of violence in South Africa's black townships that has prompted criticism of the government from both blacks and whites.
[In Johannesburg, South Africa, African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela said that new police measures imposed in the violence-plagued black townships were timed to create an appearance of calm during Mr. de Klerk's Washington trip, according to the Associated Press.
["They pretend de Klerk has put an end to the violence," Mr. Mandela said. "That's not true." He said the measures were intended to leave blacks powerless but would fail.]
After landing at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Mr. de Klerk noted he would soon be at the capital's Reflecting Pool, "where the reflections of the great monuments to Washington and Lincoln come together."
"And it was there that many thousands of Americans heard the Rev. Martin Luther King describe his dream for an America of justice and harmony through non-violence," the South African president said.
He recited the words inscribed on the Lincoln Memorial -- "With malice toward none, with charity for all . . . let us strive on . . . to do all which may achieve a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations" -- and said they also describe "our efforts today in South Africa."
Of his meeting with President Bush, Mr. de Klerk said, "I will inform him of the process of reconciliation that is taking place in our country. I will inform him of the commitment to full democracy that is growing day by day. . . . I will inform him of the irreversible momentum that has gathered behind the solid groundwork for negotiation leading up to a new constitution."
Although Mr. de Klerk had been expected to press the United Statesto drop sanctions -- a move opposed by the African National Congress -- he said before leaving South Africa that he was "not going with a particular objective of getting sanctions lifted." He reaffirmed yesterday that he hadn't come with "a shopping list."
Secretary of State James A. Baker III, interviewed yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press," said it was "very encouraging" that talks had begun between the South African government and the black majority and called Mr. de Klerk's statements about an irreversible movement toward a non-racial democracy "very, very positive."
A senior official who briefed reporters Friday said that during the talks, Mr. Bush would explore "what role the United States can play in helping to promote the negotiating process in that country."