January 30, 2003

SOUTH AFRICA: Mandela sharply criticises Bush and Blair on Iraq stance

Former South African president and Nobel peace prize laureate, Nelson Mandela, has strongly criticised the American leader, George W Bush, calling him arrogant and shortsighted. Mandela also hinted that the US president was behaving like a racist in his determination to go to war with Iraq.

Addressing an international women’s forum in Johannesburg on Thursday, January 30, Mandela uttered his most outspoken remarks about Bush to date, asking, "Why is the United States behaving so arrogantly?" South Africa’s revered elder statesman added: "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."

Mandela implied in his remarks about Bush, which were also critical of British prime minister Tony Blair, that American policy on Iraq was motivated more by financial than human rights’ concerns. "All that [the U.S.] wants is Iraqi oil," Mandela said. Blair, he added, was simply "the foreign minister of the United States. He is no longer prime minister of Britain."

Mandela’s strong anti-Bush language coincided with a letter sent to Washington and drafted by eight European countries backing Bush’s stance on matters concerning the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

"Who are they to pretend that they are the policemen of the world, the ones that should decide for the people of Iraq what should be done with their government and their leadership?" asked Mandela, accusing Bush of "trying to bring about carnage". Mandela took issue with both Bush and Blair who he said were disregarding the authority of the UN and undermining its African secretary-general, Kofi Annan, who comes from Ghana. Mandela became personal in his accusations and launched a verbal attack on the two men, asking: "Is it because the secretary-general of the United Nations is now a black man? They never did that when secretary-generals were white."

Africa’s best known statesman said the UN was the chief reason why a third world war had been avoided and urged that any decisions on Iraq should be dealt with by the UN. Mandela has been consistently critical of Bush’s handling of the Iraqi question over recent months, a view widely mirrored in other parts of Africa among leaders, politicians and ordinary people. Mandela’s comments also echo the official view from South Africa. His successor, President Thabo Mbeki, said this week: "We do not believe there is anything that has been said which says there is a need to go to war [with Iraq]". Mbeki is scheduled to meet Blair this weekend, just after the British prime minister has finished a summit with Bush at Camp David on Friday.

In an interview with the „Frankfurter Rundschau“ (Feb 1, 2003, published in German language) also Peace Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu strongly spoke out against a possible war with Iraq. (SAPA, Johannesburg)

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