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South African President F.W. de Klerk, on a tour to muster European support for his political reforms, Saturday said there is no turning back on the campaign to abolish apartheid.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher warmly praised the progress he has made thus far during a 90-minute meeting at her country home Chequers, outside London.De Klerk said at a news conference he was optimistic that the other four European leaders he has seen this month believe South Africa is changing, and will reconsider sanctions set against his country.

"The message is things are on the move. There is no turning back, and South Africa stands on the verge of another very exciting chapter in the process of reconciliation and constitutional reform," he said.

De Klerk demurred when asked his deadline for ending racist policies.

"All I can say is, we're in a hurry," he said. "I don't want to waste a minute."

Much progress has been made already, he said.

In Europe, there is "general recognition of the irreversible process which has taken place in South Africa. There is acceptance that there is a new reality in South Africa, there is acknowledgement of the fact that we are inexhorbitably moving to the birth of a new South Africa."

He also has visited Paris, Athens, Lisbon and Brussels. He was slated to leave Sunday for West Germany.

Evidence of his ability to cool passions was the mere handful of anti-apartheid demonstrators who dogged his visit, a much diminished presence from past years of huge protests intended to pressure Thatcher to toughen her stance against Pretoria.

A spokesman for Thatcher said her meeting with de Klerk was conducted in "a very friendly atmosphere."

"Mrs. Thatcher is a very special friend of South Africans," de Klerk said afterward. "I like her as a person and admire her as a leader."

Thatcher, based on her past record, should prove a strong advocate for de Klerk's cause when the European Community government leaders meet in Dublin in six weeks.

De Klerk would like them to relax economic sanctions imposed on South Africa to show dissatisfaction with Pretoria's racist policies.

Thatcher has long encouraged the international community to use carrots rather than sticks to bring an end to apartheid.

She ordered Britain to drop voluntary sanctions against South Africa in February when de Klerk freed black nationalist leader Nelson Mandela.

The British leader wants the European Community to end the ban on new investment, tourism and academic exchanges with South Africa.