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Leaders of the African National Congress called on Commonwealth countries Tuesday to help end apartheid by beefing up sanctions against South Africa and imposing a mandatory oil embargo.

With heads of state and delegates from 47 nations preparing for Wednesday's opening of the weeklong Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Thabo Mbeki said it was essential the conference "do what the world wants and send a strong signal."Mbeki, secretary of the ANC's Department of External Affairs, told a news conference, "The release of political prisoners will not end apartheid." He was referring to the release last weekend of seven ANC leaders, six of them after at least 25 years in prison.

"We want the Commonwealth to impose more trade sanctions, a mandatory oil embargo and tighten the arms embargo," Mbeki said. "That would send the correct message to Pretoria."

The demands of Mbeki and several ANC colleagues came as delegates finalized tactics to beef up sanctions and spotlight worldwide environmental destruction while a massive security network to prevent terrorism engulfed Malaysia's capital. Some 74,000 armed policemen scoured the streets, and helicopters hovered above.

Immediately confronting the 2,000 participants was the thorny question of the next secretary-general. Member countries were divided between Malcolm Fraser, former prime minister of Australia, and Nigerian Chief Emeka Anyaoku, a former diplomat and present deputy secretary-general.

It is the first time in the Commonwealth's history there has been a battle for the post, held for the past 14 years by Guyana's former foreign and justice minister, Sir Shridath Ramphal. While the organization of former colonies usually makes decisions by consensus, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said that might not be possible in such a heated contest.