JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Former President F.W. de Klerk has acknowledged a long-standing love affair with a married woman, and has apologized for inflicting pain on his wife of 40 years and their children.

``I have fallen in love with another woman and she with me,'' de Klerk said in a statement late Wednesday. ``It started a number of years ago,'' he said, without being specific.

De Klerk, 61, said he was acknowledging the affair to stem speculation, but refused to identify the woman. The Afrikaans-language daily, Beeld, identified her Thursday as Elita Georgiades, the wife of Greek shipping magnate, Tony Georgiades.

An attempt to snuff out the passion failed.

``Both of us tried to prevent the present situation,'' de Klerk said. ``Part of this was not to see or even talk to each other for a period of two years.''

De Klerk, who helped end apartheid, and his wife, Marike, married in April 1959.

Beeld, which didn't identify its sources, reported that de Klerk met his lover through her husband's role supporting de Klerk's political reforms. The de Klerks, it said, often joined the Greek couple on their luxury yacht in the Mediterranean.

The newspaper Rapport quoted de Klerk on Sunday as saying he was going through a personal crisis.

``I am sorry for the pain and heartache it is causing my wife and children and have a great appreciation for the understanding and support they are showing,'' de Klerk was quoted as saying.