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Monday, 3 December, 2001, 17:16 GMT
Mandela warns against Iraq strikes
Nelson Mandela
To many Mr Mandela is a figure of moral authority
Former South African President Nelson Mandela has warned the United States and Britain not to extend their military campaign against terrorism to Iraq.

The 83-year-old statesman said it would be a "disaster" if Iraq was bombed.

Mr Mandela's lifelong stand against apartheid and racism has seen him become one of the world's most respected elder statesmen and a leading moral authority.

Both US President George W Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell have issued veiled warnings against Iraq, fuelling speculation that the US might broaden its current campaign against Afghanistan to take in old enemies.

Saddam Hussein
Saddam is still in power 10 years after the Gulf War

Mr Bush upped the pressure last week when he challenged Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to allow United Nations inspectors back into his country to monitor whether he is building weapons of mass destruction.

But at the end of last week, Mr Powell appeared to calm speculation.

In an interview with the BBC, he said the US was aware of anxieties, and insisted that no decision had yet been taken by the president about the next stage of the war.

An economic embargo against Iraq has been in place since the end of the Gulf War in 1991 but has come under mounting criticism for harming ordinary Iraqis, an allegation rejected by the US.

'International chaos'

Mr Mandela also warned against Britain and the United States bypassing the UN in conducting of their campaign.

"That is extremely dangerous because they are introducing chaos into international affairs."

He said their actions suggested that if a country feared a veto against it, it would act independently of the UN Security Council.

Mr Mandela said he backed the US bombing campaign against terrorists in Afghanistan but not any wholesale attack on the country.

"I support the strikes against Afghanistan as far as it is intended to flush out Osama Bin Laden. I have no sympathy with terrorists who kill 5,000 innocent civilians. I cannot tolerate that."

See also:

24 Jul 01 | Africa
Profile: Nelson Mandela
30 Nov 01 | Americas
Powell pulls back on Iraq
29 Nov 01 | Middle East
UN votes to overhaul Iraq sanctions
28 Nov 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Iraq's 'smart' future
28 Oct 01 | Middle East
Rumsfeld: Iraq may be target
29 Nov 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Is Iraq next?
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