Three prominent anti-apartheid activists holed up at a U.S. Consulate Wednesday after they escaped from a hospital and their representatives met with the U.S. ambassador.

Ambassador Edward Perkins met for an hour Tuesday night with a committee representing the activists, according to a U.S. Embassy official speaking on condition of anonymity. The official declined to describe the content of the talks, which took place in a private house in a Johannesburg suburb.The activists escaped from the hospital Tuesday and fled to the consulate in a downtown Johannesburg office building. The main U.S. Embassy is in Pretoria.

Their lawyer, Krish Naidoo, entered the consulate today, apparently to visit the men. He said he would meet later with their families. A U.S. statement said the South African government may not enter the premises without Washington's permission.

The men are Murphy Morobe, acting publicity secretary of the banned United Democratic Front; Mohammed Valli Moosa, the group's acting general secretary; and Vusi Khanyile, chairman of the banned National Education Crisis Committee. Morobe and Khanyile are blacks, and Valli Moosa is an Indian.

The United Democratic Front and the crisis committee were among 17 anti-apartheid organizations banned in February from conducting any activities. The U.S. government was among many to condemn these bannings.

Perkins, the first black U.S. ambassador to South Africa, conferred with the Rev. Frank Chikane, the black general secretary of the South African Council of Churches; Jay Naidoo, an Indian anti-apartheid labor leader; and Max Coleman, a white opponent of detention without trial.

Chikane quoted Perkins as saying the activists' material needs would be met while they were in the U.S. building. U.S. officials said earlier that the activists would not be forced to leave against their will.