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Friday, March 27, 1998 Published at 17:11 GMT

Special Report

Clinton visits Mandela's jail cell
image: [ Behind bars: Clinton and Mandela in reflective mood ]
Behind bars: Clinton and Mandela in reflective mood

RIchard Downes reports on the historic meeting (2'33')
President Bill Clinton has been with Nelson Mandela to visit Robben Island, where the South African President spent 18 years in prison for his role as a leader of the African National Congress.

Robben (Seal) Island, eight miles off the coast of Cape Town in Table Bay, was a prison for black opposition figures, union organisers and militant activists from the 1950s until 1991.

[ image:  ]
The two leaders flew there by helicopter after giving a news conference outside the President's 200-year-old Tuynhuis (Garden House) residence in the suburbs of the city.

Arm-in-arm they visited Section B, prison cell No. 5, the cramped, gray cell where Mr Mandela was jailed for 18 years in his struggle against apartheid.

Bill Clinton says Nelson Mandela's heart never turned to stone (0'16')
"Thank God that the person who occupied the cell was able to live all those years in that way without having his heart turned to stone, without giving up on his dream for South Africa," President Clinton said.

Nelson Mandela suffers eye problems caused by the blazing sun after punishing days working in a quarry on the island. He also had to put a plank under his mattress to ease back pain.

Walk out of darkness

Addressing a joint session of parliament in Cape Town on Thursday, President Clinton told Mr Mandela: "For millions of Americans, South Africa's story is embodied by your heroic sacrifice and breathtaking walk out of the darkness and into the glorious light."

[ image:  ]
Before the two leaders made their visit they discussed Mr Clinton's call for a new relationship between the two countries, with the emphasis on trade rather than aid.

Mr Clinton said America wanted and needed South Africa to be strong, and called for a partnership based on mutual respect and reward.

This was criticised by South Africa's Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki, who said that fostering trade should not be done at the expense of the aid on which many African economies still depend.

Emphasis on trade

To head off attacks, Mr Clinton stressed that he wants to raise total US aid to Africa to more than $800m (£480m) a year, $100m (£60m) more than at present.

"While it's true that we're putting much more emphasis on trade and investment in the last five years, I don't think that we should abandon our aid approach," Mr Clinton said after meeting Mr Mbeki on Thursday.

After visiting Mr Mandela's former prison, Bill and Hillary Clinton will be guests of honour at a state dinner at Vergelen Wine Estates, a vineyard in nearby Somerset West.


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