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Mandela and Bush Discuss AIDS

A call from the former South African leader signals an easing of tension over Iraq.

August 17, 2003|From Reuters

CRAWFORD, Texas — Former South African leader Nelson Mandela telephoned President Bush on Saturday, taking a step toward improving relations frayed by disagreements over the war in Iraq.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said Bush "welcomed a call" from the 85-year-old anti-apartheid icon while vacationing at his ranch near Crawford.

Their discussion focused in part on the need to fight AIDS in Africa, McClellan said.

Mandela has praised Bush's commitment to funding AIDS research and treatment and has urged Europe to follow Washington's lead.

In May, Bush signed into law a $15-billion plan to help combat the deadly disease in Africa and the Caribbean, tripling U.S. spending over five years.

Tensions between Bush and Mandela have erupted over the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Mandela was one of the bluntest critics of the Iraq war and repeatedly criticized the U.S. president, calling Bush a threat to world peace and a leader who "cannot think properly."

Mandela was on an overseas trip in July and therefore did not meet with Bush during the U.S. leader's visit to South Africa.

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