Friday, November 16, 2001

Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, expressed his support for the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism during a visit to the United States this week and commended President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair for their leadership.

Once the campaign in Afghanistan is concluded, the world can concentrate on “other forms of action required to combat and eradicate terrorism, thereby creating a safer and more secure world for all,” Mr. Mandela said during a Wednesday night lecture at the University of Maryland at College Park.

“[Those] in that country who refuse to cooperate with the international forces against terrorism have brought this war on the country and are the ones in the first place responsible,” he said of the Taliban militia.

Addressing a packed audience of more than 10,000, the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize recipient delivered his speech strongly, and his personal stories and reflections held his audience in rapt attention.

“It is often warned that the current conflict should not be dealt with in a manner that divides the Islamic and non-Islamic world,” said Mr. Mandela, who spent 27 years in jail for opposing racist apartheid in South Africa. “We have right at the outset said that any campaign conducted should be against terrorism and not against Muslims.”

He went on to say that leaders in the Islamic world have expressed themselves no differently than other peace-loving leaders namely, they are vehemently opposed to acts of terror.

“Islamic countries form as an important bulwark against terrorism as any other bloc of countries in the international community,” he said.

Turning to the Middle East, Mr. Mandela outlined three conditions for a possible resolution to the conflict. First, he advised that Israel should withdraw from all occupied territories. Secondly, Arab countries should reiterate the belief that Israel has the right to exist. Finally, an international commission acceptable to both parties should oversee negotiations leading to a final settlement, he said.

Mr. Mandela expressed hope that, although his recommendations could not guarantee immediate peace, they might still begin the process toward a final settlement.

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