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Tuesday, October 19, 1999 Published at 23:38 GMT 00:38 UK

World: Middle East

Mandela makes Gaza plea

United in struggle: Yasser Arafat and Nelson Mandela

On the final stop of his Middle East tour, Nelson Mandela has urged Israel to withdraw from territory won from the Arabs in the 1967 war.

Middle East
The 81-year old former South African president made his plea shortly after flying from Israel to Palestinian-ruled Gaza.

He said: "Israel should withdraw from all the areas which it won from the Arabs in 1967, and in particular Israel should withdraw completely from the Golan Heights, from south Lebanon and from the West Bank."

Mr Mandela is a long-time supporter of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and a close friend of Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat.

Schoolchildren, who had stood since early morning to greet Mr Mandela, waved Palestinian and South African flags and posters of the two presidents.

A Palestinian official said the visit held a lot of meaning: "He said what had to be said and that is peace requires full Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian areas."

[ image: Reconciliation: Nelson Mandela and Israeli President Ezer Weizman]
Reconciliation: Nelson Mandela and Israeli President Ezer Weizman
But Mr Mandela also urged further conciliation from Israel's opponents. He said: "The Arab leaders must make an unequivocal statement that they recognize the existence of Israel with secure borders".

The Israeli Government had earlier reacted very positively to Mr Mandela's visit to their country.

Foreign minister David Levy said: "We are very proud this man has visited us".

Mr Mandela said his visit was intended to heal old wounds caused by links between the Jewish state and the old apartheid regime in South Africa.

Observers believe Mr Mandela's visit is a sign of his high regard for the new Israeli Government of Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

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