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S. AFRICANS PRESS AHEAD ON CONSTITUTION

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More than 20 political parties met Monday, determined to press ahead with work on a new constitution despite a boycott by black and white conservatives.

The Conservative Party, a pro-apartheid white group, and the Inkatha Freedom Party, a conservative Zulu movement, both pulled out because they oppose plans to hold the country's first multiracial elections next April. They are seeking territory where they can be free of control from the central government.The boycott didn't disrupt the new round of talks, which include President F.W. de Klerk's white government and Nelson Mandela's African National Congress, the leading black group.

"Our position is clear. There must be a negotiated settlement," said Leon Wessels, one of the government's top negotiators.

The parties have been on recess since July 2, when they set the election date. They will now work on writing an interim constitution that will guide the country for the first few years after the election.

There is general agreement that the first post-apartheid government will be made up of several parties, including both blacks and whites. However, many details are still unresolved.

The first draft of the new constitution is expected to be presented this week, the independent South African Press Association reported. However, it's likely to take weeks before there is final agreement.

A national assembly chosen in next April's election will write the country's permanent constitution.

The negotiating parties already have rejected demands by the Conservatives and Inkatha, though the two groups could step up efforts to spoil the elections.

"These talks are futile at the moment because the government and the African National Congress . . . just want us here as a rubber stamp for their bilateral agreements," said Tom Langley, the chief negotiator for the Conservative Party.

The Conservatives and Inkatha both announced over the weekend that they would not participate in the talks until their demands are met. Inkatha leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi heads the Zulu homeland, and the homeland delegation also boycotted Monday's session.