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RESPONSE TO TERROR

Mandela Sees Nuances in 'Terrorist'

November 16, 2001|From Reuters

UNITED NATIONS — Former South African President Nelson Mandela joked Thursday that the word "terrorist" was a relative term and that some people like him once referred to as terrorists had gone on to become heads of state.

"Those people who are referring to many of us as terrorists are now dealing with us as members of responsible governments, and therefore terrorism is a relative term," Mandela, 83, said during a visit to the United Nations.

"Those people who did not agree with your activities will label you a terrorist. But when you succeed, the same people are prepared to accept you and have dealings with you as a head of state," he said, smiling.

Mandela spent 27 years in a South African prison for opposing decades of white rule, and his African National Congress was considered by some foreign governments as a typical terrorist organization.

After his release in 1990, he helped lead South Africa to full democracy in all-race elections in 1994. He handed over South Africa's presidency to Thabo Mbeki in June 1999.

Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for his efforts to dismantle apartheid, sharing the award with Frederik W. de Klerk, then the South African president.

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