JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ The ruling African National Congress accused former President Jimmy Carter on Sunday of being arrogant and contemptuous for criticizing the government's AIDS policies, and said he was trying to foist unsafe drugs on South African AIDS sufferers.

Carter, who visited South Africa on Friday before flying to Nigeria, urged the government to do more to fight AIDS and offered to help raise funds for anti-AIDS programs.

Specifically, he said the government should make available at public hospitals the AIDS drug nevirapine, found effective in reducing the mother-to-child transmission of HIV, a major problem in South Africa.

Its refusal to make the drug universally available has brought the ruling party condemnation from many quarters _ including from Nelson Mandela, the country's widely revered former president.

ANC questioned Carter's motives, saying the safety of nevirapine was still unproven, though it has been approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization. A study commissioned by the South African government found the drug to have no negative side effects.

``We find it alarming that President Carter is willing to treat our people as guinea pigs, in the interest of the pharmaceutical companies, which he would not do in his own country,'' the party said in a statement.

In Abuja, Nigeria, Carter praised that country's leaders at a church service in the presidential villa's chapel Sunday for the work they have done to fight HIV, making a veiled reference to South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki.

``We came earlier this week from another country, which I won't name, where the president has avoided this responsibility completely and AIDS is rampant and growing every day,'' Carter said.

The South African government has restricted nevirapine's use to a few pilot programs, saying the country does not have adequate infrastructure to administer it properly.

Mandela said he would try to persuade the ANC to change its policies when the national executive committee takes up the matter later this month.

``We have created the impression that we don't care about the thousands of people who are dying,'' the Sunday Independent newspaper reported him as saying.

The government estimated last year that 4.7 million South Africans _ one in nine _ were HIV positive, more people than any other country.

The ANC also accused Carter of reneging on an agreement not to involve himself in the debate over AIDS drugs and said South Africa could solve its problems on its own.

``We do not need the interference and contemptuous attitude of President Carter or anybody else,'' it said. ``We are not arrogant to presume that we know what the U.S. should do to respond to its many domestic challenges. Nobody from elsewhere in the world should presume they have a superior right to tell us what to do with our own challenges.''

Mbeki's spokesman Bheki Khumalo refused to comment on the party statement. ANC spokesman Smuts Ngonyama said Mbeki had not seen it.