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Tuesday, May 4, 1999 Published at 17:03 GMT 18:03 UK

World: South Asia

Mandela calls for nuclear disarmament

Nawaz Sharif calls Mr Mandela a "hero of freedom"

By Owen Bennett-Jones in Islamabad

President Nelson Mandela of South Africa has urged India and Pakistan to work for nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation in South Asia.

He was speaking in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, as a part of his farewell international tour.

Mr Mandela said that when he took over in South Africa the nuclear arsenal established by his apartheid predecessors was dismantled. The nuclearisation of South Asia, he said, was a big concern.

He called on the leaders of the subcontinent to promote nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.

Kashmiri comments toned down

In the course of his speech Nelson Mandela also referred to the Kashmir dispute.

Last year, when addressing the non-aligned summit in Durban, he said that all the countries present should be willing to lend all their strength to resolving the dispute.

That comment was widely welcomed in Pakistan as a sign that the South African president favoured third party mediation over Kashmir.

But in his Islamabad speech, Mr Mandela said that he had complete confidence in the leadership of Pakistan and India to resolve the problem themselves.

Despite any disappointment about that statement, Mr Mandela did receive a standing ovation from the Pakistani audience, which earlier heard their Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, describe the South African leader as a great hero of freedom.

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