Mandela Sorry He’s Unable to Accept Honor
STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) _ South African black leader Nelson Mandela said Wednesday he was sorry he had to refuse the Ataturk Prize, given in memory of the founder of modern Turkey.
Turks reacted angrily when Mandela’s group, the African National Congress, announced that Mandela would not accept the $9,500 prize, named after national hero Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. It was to have been awarded on Tuesday.
The ANC gave no reason for the refusal, but suggested it was linked to human rights questions.
Ethnic Kurdish members of Turkey’s parliament praised the decision.
Kurds object to the government’s methods of suppressing a Kurdish guerrilla movement that is fighting for an independent Marxist Kurdish state in southeast Turkey.
″I was very sorry it was not possible for me to accept this award,″ Mandela said at a news conference. ″I have a great deal of respect for Ataturk and for the Turkish people themselves.″
″We are guided by the views of the masses of the people and if, on any issue, they take a position, I cannot ignore it.″