The government Friday mocked three escaped detainees holed up in the U.S. Consulate, calling them failed martyrs, and it pledged to leave them alone if they left the building.

The three prominent anti-apartheid leaders escaped to the consulate Tuesday after slipping away from police guards while undergoing physiotherapy at a hospital. Each had been held at least 14 months without trial.So far, the three have spurned the government's offer to let them leave the consulate without fear of re-arrest. They are seeking assurances, possibly guaranteed by the United States, that they will not be detained or restricted in any way if they leave.

Foreign Minister Pik Bothasaid he had told U.S. Ambassador Edward Perkins that the South African government "was not interested" in the activists.

"As far as I am concerned, they are merely guests of the American consul-general at the expense of the American taxpayer," Botha said. "They are deeply disappointed that they did not succeed in becoming martyrs and the fact that they will have to leave the U.S. consulate-general with their tails between their legs, with all of South Africa laughing at them."