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Behind South Africa's spy swap

The South African government hopes its leading role in a major spy swap with the Soviet Union will to some extent improve its image with the West, Monitor correspondent Paul Van Slambrouck reports.

South Africa exchanged a Soviet intelligence agency (KGB) officer, Maj. Alexei Kozlov, for one South African serviceman and eight ''important Western intelligence agents'' at an unspecified location in Europe May 11.

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In a statement announcing the exchange, South African Prime Minister Pieter W. Botha said the deal was clear proof of his government's pro-Western attitude. He trusted the gesture would not go unnoticed by Western governments that have ''. . . displayed a sharply hostile attitude towards our country.'' He was presumably referring to persistent overseas criticism of South Africa's segregationist racial policies.

The exchange also offered a timely opportunity for Mr. Botha to compliment South Africa's National Intelligence Service (NIS), which has come under a cloud with recent accusations that it was involved in last year's abortive coup attempt in the Seychelles. The NIS carried out negotiations with the KGB.

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