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Report: Conservative Think Tank Was Front for Apartheid

July 17, 1995 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ A conservative think tank with ties to U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms and other prominent Republicans was actually a front for South Africa’s white rulers during the last days of apartheid, New York Newsday reported Sunday.

The Washington-based International Freedom Foundation, founded in 1986, was part of a South African intelligence-gathering operation and was designed to be an instrument for ``political warfare″ against apartheid’s foes, according to Newsday.

The Republican lawmakers said they didn’t know that.

Craig Williamson, a former senior South African spy, told the newspaper the South African government spent up to $1.5 million a year through 1992 to underwrite ``Operation Babushka,″ as the International Freedom Foundation project was known.

The current South African National Defence Force confirmed that the foundation was its dummy operation, the newspaper said.

South Africa sought to use the foundation to try to reverse the apartheid regime’s pariah status in international circles, specifically by portraying the African National Congress as a tool of Soviet Communism, Williamson said.

The South Africans reportedly found willing allies among Republican politicians.

Helms, now chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, served as chairman of the editorial advisory board for the foundation’s publications, Newsday said.

Helms said through a spokesman he did not know anything about the group.

``We never had any relationship with them,″ said Marc Thiessen.

The newspaper also said Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., who was the ranking Republican on the House subcommittee on Africa, and Rep. Robert Dornan, R-Calif., were active in the foundation’s projects.

They said they didn’t know the foundation was controlled and funded by the South African government.

``We participated in forums they sponsored,″ Burton said through an aide, Gil Kapen. ``They were anti-communist and we were happy to work with them to that extent.″

Dornan spokesman Paul Morrell, said the congressman regarded the foundation as simply ``pro-freedom, pro-democracy, pro-Reagan.″