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Volume 3, Number 2              February 9 -15, 2003            Quezon City, Philippines

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Mandela Rebukes Bush Over Crisis With Iraq


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APE TOWN, Jan. 31 Former President Nelson Mandela sharply assailed President Bush this week for pushing the United States to the brink of war with Iraq, calling him "a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly." 

Mr. Mandela, South Africa's first black president, has publicly and repeatedly opposed the prospect of an American-led war against Iraq. He has spent his recent years in retirement trying to bring an end to bloody conflicts in Burundi and the Middle East. His comments on Thursday reflected the deep-seated opposition here to any decision by the United States and Britain to attack Iraq without United Nations approval.

Speaking to the International Women's Forum in Johannesburg, Mr. Mandela, 84, accused Mr. Bush of warmongering with the goal of controlling Iraq's oil. He also accused Mr. Bush of disregarding the United Nations because its secretary general, Kofi Annan, is black.

"It is a tragedy what is happening, what Bush is doing in Iraq," he said. "What I am condemning is that one power, with a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust."

"Why does the United States behave so arrogantly?" Mr. Mandela asked. "Their friend Israel has got weapons of mass destruction, but because it's their ally they won't ask the U.N. to get rid of it. They just want the oil."

Mr. Mandela said Mr. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain were undermining the United Nations by threatening to attack without its consensus. "Is this because the secretary general of the United Nations is now a black man?" he asked. "They never did that when secretary generals were white."

Mr. Mandela, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize for helping to bring an end to apartheid, South Africa's policy of racial separation, was speaking more stridently than government officials had in recent months.

But President Thabo Mbeki and his deputies have also repeatedly questioned American policy in Iraq and the Middle East. Officials here say they believe that the Bush administration is unfairly focusing on Iraq, choosing to ignore the wrongdoing and powerful weapons of its allies in Israel, Pakistan and elsewhere.

In November, Aziz Pahad, the deputy foreign minister, led a relief and trade mission to Iraq, telling President Saddam Hussein that South Africa opposed a war and urged all parties to resolve their differences through the United Nations. That same month Mr. Mbeki told a meeting of Asian leaders that he was concerned about the deepening crisis between the United States and Iraq.

"It is critically important that the matter of Iraq is resolved peacefully through the United Nations and its Security Council," Mr. Mbeki said at the meeting in Cambodia. "We trust that sense will prevail so that no country or combination of countries take it upon themselves to embark on unilateral action against Iraq, which should itself cooperate fully with the Security Council to resolve all outstanding matters."

Today, the governing African National Congress reiterated its strong opposition to war and called on its supporters to take part in antiwar marches scheduled in February.

"A people who pose no threat to the world or the security of the United States should not be subjected to the kind of suffering an attack would bring," the party said in its weekly newsletter. 

But on Thursday Mr. Mandela took the criticism to a new level. During his speech, he also criticized the United States for complaining about Iraq's human rights record. Asserting that the American conscience was far from clean, Mr. Mandela pointed to the atomic bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.

"Because they decided to kill innocent people in Japan, who are still suffering from that, who are they now to pretend that they are the policeman of the world?" he asked.

Two of South Africa's smaller predominantly black parties, the United Democratic Movement and the Pan Africanist Congress, cheered Mr. Mandela's remarks today. The Inkatha Freedom Party, the second-largest black party, expressed reservations along with the predominantly white Democratic Party.

Tony Leon, the leader of the Democratic Party, urged Mr. Mandela to "think again" about his position.

"Surely former President Mandela, given his unique moral stature on the world stage, should communicate with Iraq and persuade its dictatorial regime to follow South Africa's example of nuclear disarmament," Mr. Leon said. "It is not simply a question of America's bellicosity. It is a question of Iraq's decade-long defiance of United Nations resolutions, which has in large part created this crisis."

 January 2003


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