JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Former South African President Nelson Mandela said Wednesday that he was willing to undertake a mission to Iraq to help avert a war, but only if the United Nations approved.
Mandela, respected around the world for his fight against apartheid, said he has tried to contact Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by telephone to urge him to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors.
He said Baghdad wants him to visit Iraq.
"If Iraq wants me to go there, they must get the permission of [U.N. Secretary-General] Kofi Annan. Then I will go," Mandela told reporters at his home in Johannesburg. "But I won't go on my own just because I have been invited by Iraq."
The 84-year-old Nobel Peace laureate has accused President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair of running roughshod over the United Nations in their bid to oust Hussein.
"One power with a president who has no foresight and cannot think properly is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust," Mandela said last week.
Mandela was skeptical of information presented by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to the United Nations on Wednesday that the U.S. says shows Iraq is not disarming.
Only U.N. weapons inspectors can assess the situation, Mandela said.