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African leaders have voted at a summit to maintain economic sanctions against South Africa, but a splinter group defied consensus by announcing that its members will now openly trade with Pretoria.

For the first time in the 27-year history of the Organization of African Unity, its members were openly divided over the sanctions question.Kenya, Madagascar and other nations say they will restore trade and transport ties as a signal of support for President F.W. de Klerk's political reforms.

Most of the organization's 51 member states voted Wednesday to keep up the pressure of sanctions to ensure that de Klerk keeps promises to abolish all racist legislation and move toward democracy.

As the organization's leaders met in Abuja, the parliament of South Africa took another step in that direction by abolishing apartheid laws that segregated neighborhoods for more than 40 years.

Despite the OAU's tough public stance, black Africa's legal and illegal trade with South Africa is increasing and is expected to reach about $4 billion this year, according to an OAU report published this week.