ANC leader Nelson Mandela met Saturday with the leader of the rival black opposition movement Inkatha in an urgent bid to slow escalating violence in the black townships.

Mandela and Mangosuthu Buthelezi said afterward that they were committed to their historic Jan. 29 peace agreement, which set up joint committees to monitor the unrest and visit trouble spots nationwide.The African National Congress vice president and the leader of the Zulu-dominated Inkatha Freedom Party also said a meeting with President F.W. de Klerk might be arranged to discuss the violence.

But Mandela reiterated the ANC's support for self-defense units in townships, a position opposed by the Inkathas and the government.

Supporters of the two organizations have waged virtual warfare for five years in Natal Province, and more than 5,000 people have been killed. Fighting spread to townships near Johannesburg last fall, resulting in 1,000 more deaths.

Saturday's meeting was the second in two months between Mandela and Buthelezi, longtime friends turned political rivals.

At a joint news conference following their five-hour meeting, the leaders criticized the public perception that the violence was solely between the ANC and Inkatha - or the Zulu and Xhosa tribes.

"The violence involved not only the Inkatha Freedom Party and the African National Congress, but the government as well," Mandela said.