Mandela says view on Osama bin Laden may be "one-sided"

Cape Town- South Africa (PANA) -- Former South African president Nelson Mandela has repudiated his controversial statement that Saudi-born dissident Osama bin Laden should be held responsible for the 11 September attacks on the United States.
Mandela said on Wednesday that subsequent discussion with family, friends and advisors had convinced him that his view may be "one- sided and over-stated".
Last month the Nobel laureate labelled bin Laden as a terrorist and said he should be held responsible for the attacks.
Addressing the Muslim community at a Durban mosque in December, Mandela said bin Laden should be captured and tried for the attacks.
He also said that bin Laden's al-Qaeda network should be smashed and terrorist strongholds destroyed.
Mandela's speech angered several Muslims who said it was unfair to label bin Laden a terrorist when he had not been convicted in a court of law.
However, Mandela apologised for his stance, saying he wished to register his sincere regret "if the manner in which we stated our position gave any offence to Muslims in South Africa and throughout the world".
He said it was pointed out to him that such unreserved support for the war in Afghanistan gave the impression that "we are insensitive to and uncaring about the suffering of the Afghan people".
He said he would be arranging meetings with Muslim leadership in South Africa within the next few days to personally convey this message to them.
"We are also writing to President Bush to appropriately qualify the view we previously expressed to him in person and in correspondence.
" He added that his opposition to all forms of terrorism remained total and said he supported international efforts to combat and eradicate terrorism.
The Muslim Youth Movement of South Africa has welcomed Mandela's about-face, saying it reaffirmed their belief that he was a politician and leader of integrity who was willing to publicly accept that he erred in statements he had made to the international media.
"That he is also willing to say that he has changed his position after advice from 'family, friends and advisors' adds to his integrity.
Of course, we should expect nothing less from a man of his calibre," the organisation said in a statement.

03 january 2002 08:47:00

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