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BRITAIN REJECTS TOUGH SANCTIONS

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Britain on Saturday rejected as "wrongheaded" a Commonwealth strategy on South Africa seeking to tighten financial pressures but said the organization now acknowledges measures should not be punitive.

"It is a novel recognition that change is beginning (in South Africa), that change is welcome and that we do not wish to hand a broken-backed economy over to a new South Africa" said British Foreign Secretary John Major.He said there was a "very welcome and new recognition" at the 49-nation Commonwealth summit that sanctions may be relaxed "as we begin to see evidence that apartheid is being dismantled."

Britain also rejected outright three other key sections of a draft declaration on South Africa.

The draft was drawn up by a 10-nation foreign ministers' committee after a day of argument. Diplomats called the exchanges "robust."

Officials from Canada, which headed the committee, said that with Britain refusing to budge from its lone opposition to sanctions, "we agreed to disagree."

Commonwealth leaders debated the South Africa draft during a weekend retreat at Langkawi, a luxury resort island 210 miles northwest of Kuala Lumpur.

Malayasian officials said the final version would be issued Sunday.

At the retreat, some of the leaders played golf and Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's 15-month-old son, Bilawal, joined other leaders for lunch in his high chair.

In a separate development, the summit issued a declaration on the environment that, in a victory for developed nations, rejected an Indian demand to set up a new environmental fund.

The developed nations, including Britain, argued there was a need for additional money but a new fund would be a wasteful duplication of U.N. programs.