Mandela Softens Support of U.S.DINA KRAFT , Associated Press
Jan. 3, 2002 11:01 AM ET
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Former South African President Nelson Mandela backed away from his unconditional support of the war in Afghanistan, saying his original views may have been ``one-sided and overstated.''
Mandela, who has assumed the role of Africa's elder statesman and global peacemaker since leaving office in 1999, was sharply criticized by South Africa's Muslim community for his views on the U.S.-led campaign.
``Subsequent discussions with our family, friends, and advisers have convinced us that our view may (have been) one-sided and overstated,'' Mandela said in a statement Wednesday.
``It was pointed out to us that such unreserved support for the war in Afghanistan gives the impression that we are insensitive to and uncaring about the suffering inflicted upon the Afghan people and country,'' Mandela said.
During a November visit with President Bush in Washington, Mandela expressed his unconditional support for the anti-terrorism effort.
In December, Mandela visited a mosque in the coastal city of Durban and reiterated his support for the war. He said Osama bin Laden should be captured and tried for the attacks and that the al-Qaida network should be destroyed, the South African Press Agency reported.
Leaders of South Africa's Muslim community criticized Mandela for calling bin Laden a terrorist when he has yet to be tried or convicted.
``The labeling of Osama bin Laden as the terrorist responsible for those acts before he had been tried and convicted could also be seen as undermining some of the basic tenets of the rule of law,'' Mandela said in the statement.
Mandela emphasized that his opposition to terrorism remains unflinching and that those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on America must be ``apprehended and brought to trial without inflicting suffering on innocent people.''
Mandela, 83, spent nearly 30 years in prison under South Africa's apartheid regime and was released in 1990. He won the Nobel Prize for bringing a peaceful end to apartheid.