President F.W. de Klerk told a high-level Olympic delegation Monday that South Africa now deserved re-admission to the international sports arena.

"I think South Africa deserves it and I hope that any stumbling blocks remaining will be removed as a result of this delegation's visit," he told reporters before meeting members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).The IOC has set two major conditions for ending South Africa's long Olympic isolation - unified sports bodies within the Republic and the end of the country's race laws.

De Klerk said his government had stayed out of sports administration since 1979 and believed politics should be kept out of sport.

"But, obviously . . . we will do whatever we can to positively influence any decision to get South African sport back into the international arena," he said.

The head of the IOC delegation, the Commission on Apartheid and Olympism, told De Klerk he felt "reasonable optimism" South Africa would be admitted to next year's Barcelona Games.

IOC vice-president Kemba Mbaye said at the start of the meeting the Olympic movement wanted to encourage racial unity in South African sport.

"We want to investigate in the political and governmental area, but also the sports area, what is the reality in South Africa today so that we can adjust our behavior and our policy," he said.

South African and IOC officials have made it clear the prize for unity will be its admission to the Barcelona Games after a 21-year ban from the Olympic movement.