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Wednesday, January 6, 1999 Published at 16:03 GMT


World: Africa

Blair visit faces Muslim protests

Deputy Prime Minister Aziz Pahad welcomed Mr Blair in Pretoria

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has arrived in South Africa at the start of a visit expected to be dominated by trade and investment issues.

But as well as meeting President Mandela and the man expected to succeed him, Thabo Mbeki, Mr Blair will also face protests from a number of organisations.


The BBC's Jeremy Vine: "Muslim groups are furious"
Two Muslim groups have promised to hold demonstrations in protest at the UK's involvement in the bombing of Iraq.

And as the centenary of the Boer War approaches, an Afrikaner nationalist group has also called on Mr Blair to apologise for Britain's waging war on Afrikaners.


[ image:  ]
The small Islamic group Muslims Against Global Oppression (Mago) said it would hold mass demonstrations, first at the US embassy in Cape Town and then at the British consulate on Thursday.

"We don't agree with the bombing of Iraq and we are disgusted at the killing of innocent women and children," Mago spokesman Moaim Achmad said.

"We will follow Blair wherever he goes, we will have placard demonstrations and our people in Gauteng (province) and Durban will do the same when he is there."


The BBC's Jane Standley: Muslim groups threaten to hound Mr Blair throughout the visit
Another group, Muslims Against Illegitimate Leaders (Mail) said it would support Mago.

"We want to make it clear that all British and Americans in our country are not welcome here, they are unwanted," Mail spokesman Abduragmaan Khan said.

Afrikaners seek apology

Calls for an apology for the 1899 - 1902 Boer War have come from the Reformed National Party (HNP) - a small, far-right group which broke away from the ruling National Party during the apartheid era.

HNP leader Jaap Marais demanded "a full apology, and Blair must express his remorse over what happened."

Approached by a South African newspaper to comment on the demands, Mr Blair's office said Britain would approach the anniversary in a spirit of "reconciliation and true friendship"

The Boer War, or Second Freedom War as it is known to Afrikaners, was fought between the Boers - descendents of 17th Century Dutch settlers who had occupied the interior of South Africa - and the British, who had colonised the coastal areas.

Afrikaner resentment has focussed on the deaths of thousands of Boer women and children in British internment camps.

Farewell to Mandela


[ image: Nelson Mandela: To retire this year]
Nelson Mandela: To retire this year
During his four-day visit, Mr Blair will also bid farewell to President Nelson Mandela, who is to retire this year, and cement ties with Mr Mandela's likely successor, current Deputy President Thabo Mbeki.

Mr Blair hopes to finalise defence deals worth £1bn, and also announce a new investment and aid package for both South Africa and the continent as a whole.

The already strong trade links between the two countries could be bolstered by up to £4bn of extra British investment, said officials.


Tony Blair outlines the aims of his visit
Mr Blair will also ask President Mandela to continue using his negotiating skills to persuade Libya's Colonel Gaddafi to agree a trial in The Hague for the two Libyans suspected of planting the Lockerbie Pan Am jet bomb.

President Mandela will receive the detailed background to Britain's decision to join the US in raids on Iraq.

The prime minister will then go on to visit the RAF crews in Kuwait who played a crucial role in the raids.





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