Mandela Says will Help, not Mediate in Middle East
Former South African President Nelson Mandela turned down an invitation from Palestinian President Yasser Arafat on Thursday to mediate in the Middle East, but said he would help efforts to get peace talks back on track, reported Reuters.
In talks with President Thabo Mbeki, Arafat won formal South African support for the Palestinian state he has said he will declare if there is no peace deal with Israel by mid-September.
Arafat arrived unexpectedly in South Africa to see Mbeki and to ask for Mandela's help to revive negotiations with Israel, said the agency.
"He has asked me to mediate, but my reply is that it can't be an individual effort," Mandela told reporters after talks with Arafat at his Johannesburg office.
He added, however, "I am prepared to go the whole hog to help."
Mandela said he would telephone the leaders of Egypt, France, the United States, Britain and Saudi Arabia to urge a coordinated effort to boost the peace process, Reuters said.
Earlier, Mbeki said it was now time to support the Palestinian independence initiative, reported AFP.
He said he hoped Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak would "recognize the flexibility that has been shown by the Palestinian leadership," he said.
"Everybody who advised the postponement, creating pressures and risks...all of us have a moral obligation and a political obligation now to respond in the same way that the Palestinian leadership has responded," Mbeki said in reference to Arafat's flexibility last year over Palestinian statehood, AFP added.
According to AFP, Mandela advised Arafat last year to shelve his planned unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state - (Several Sources)
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