WASHINGTON -- President Bush has decided to lift economic sanctions against South Africa and will announce that decision this week, administration officials said last night.
The officials, who declined to be identified, said Mr. Bush decided to lift the sanctions -- at least temporarily -- after a State Department team of advisers determined that the South African government was complying with the congressional condition of releasing political prisoners. That is the fifth and final requirement to be met before sanctions could be lifted.
"The State Department has informed the president that the requirement" for release of political prisoners "is being met," an official said last night. "On that recommendation, the president has decided that the sanctions should be lifted."
Mr. Bush told members of the Congressional Black Caucus 10 days ago that, under the provisions of the 1986 law that imposed the sanctions against the South African government, he had little recourse but to lift the sanctions if the condition on political prisoners was met.
The caucus members told Mr. Bush at the White House meeting that they opposed the lifting of the sanctions, saying it would be a "dangerous and wrong" decision.
Before sanctions could be lifted, the South African government would have to fulfill or make sufficient progress toward meeting the following conditions set out by Congress:
* Release of all political prisoners.
* Repeal of the state of emergency and the release of all people imprisoned under it.
* Legalization of all political parties and the right for people of all races to organize politically, express opinions and participate in the country's political processes.
* Repeal of the twin pillars of apartheid -- the Group Areas Act and the Population and Registration Act -- and refraining from any other measures with such racial purposes.
* Agreement to negotiate in good faith and without preconditions with representatives of the black majority.
The president may order the lifting of sanctions if he certifies to Congress that the conditions have been met and that "substantial progress" has been made in ending apartheid.