A U.S. appeals court is allowing claims to go forward against a number of major companies accused of supporting apartheid in South Africa.

The federal court in New York said a Manhattan judge had erred in dismissing the case in 2004.

The plaintiffs in the class action suit argue that the companies collaborated with South Africa's government to maintain the racist apartheid system.

The U.S. government has opposed the suit, saying the litigation could interfere with South Africa's reconciliation and could compromise relations between the countries.

South Africa's government itself has also argued against the suit, saying it interferes with its right to pursue justice.

Apartheid ended in South Africa in 1994 when the country held its first all-race elections, bringing Nelson Mandela to power.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.