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South Africa nibbling at Namibia 'carrot'?

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So far, it is working. That's the early assessment here of the Reagan administration's approach to gaining independence for Namibia (South-West Africa).

United States foreign policy has taken a noticeable ''tilt'' toward South Africa under President Reagan. His belief is that ''carrots'' rather than ''sticks'' will best induce South Africa to end its administrative control of Namibia.

On the heels of the recent tour of Africa by Western diplomats to launch the newest initiative for independence of the territory, analysts here see signs the Reagan approach is paying off.

''South Africa does not look to be stringing along the United States,'' says Michael Spicer of the South African Institute of International Affairs. Mr. Spicer, like many analysts here, was initially concerned that South Africa would simply ''string along'' the US - taking advantage of Washington's attitude without giving anything in return.

But South Africa is ''showing more political will toward a settlement than it has showed for some time,'' he says.

Although an independence vote in Namibia remains far from certain, analysts here are increasingly convinced that South Africa is seriously pursuing the possibility.

According to these analysts, the Reagan approach has:

* Convinced South Africa that, because of the relatively friendly administration in Washington, this may be the best time to settle the independence issue in a way that will be accepted internationally.

* Established a measure of trust between South Africa and the US that has put the initial phase of independence negotiations on a sounder footing than in the past.

* Strengthened the political will of South Africa to get on with a settlement , despite internal political dissent on the issue, by making clear closer ties with the US could result.


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