Nelson Mandela and Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the country's two most powerful black leaders, will meet Jan. 29 in their first face-to-face talks since Mandela's release from prison, their parties said Thursday.

The talks, set for the Indian Ocean port city of Durban, could help diminish the vicious factional fighting between Mandela's African National Congress and Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party.Mandela and Buthelezi have been friends since the 1940s, but have never met as chiefs of the country's largest black political organizations. Mandela repeatedly has refused to meet Buthelezi since the ANC leader's release last February after 27 years in prison.

The ANC, considered the leading black political movement, had accused Buthelezi of using violence to get a meeting with Mandela and enhance his stature as a national figure.

Buthelezi, meanwhile, accused the ANC of trying to crush his Zulu-based Inkatha movement and other black groups.

The ANC-Inkatha dispute has been the main cause of the fighting in the eastern province of Natal, where 5,000 blacks have died since 1986. The battles spread to the Johannesburg area last August and have claimed more than 1,000 lives since then.

The ANC and Inkatha both oppose the apartheid system of racial segregation. They differ on tactics and plans for a future South Africa, but their conflict is seen largely as a power struggle rather than an ideological split.

The ANC, which draws on black support nationwide, waged a bombing campaign for 29 years against the government but suspended the armed struggle last August and has been holding talks with the white-led government of President F.W. de Klerk.