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Mandela Lobbies for Mideast Plan

October 31, 1999

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Former President Nelson Mandela is traveling and speaking out for the Middle East peace solution that he proposed earlier this month, apparently ignoring his pledge to step back from the world stage.

In an interview in the Sunday Independent of Johannesburg, Mandela said he would travel again next month to the United States to lobby for the plan.

The hero of South Africa’s fight against apartheid retired from the presidency in June, pledging to spend more time with his family and less time dealing with political issues.

But the Mideast peace process involving Israelis and Arabs has drawn him back. He has recently returned from trips to the United States, Israel and several Arab states to discuss his three-part plan: Israel withdraws from Arab lands it occupied in 1967, Arab states recognize the sovereignty of Israel, and an international commission be created to oversee the process.

Mandela said that key Arab leaders, President Clinton and European leaders support the plan. Mandela would be part of the commission overseeing the process.

There’s nothing really new in the proposal, but the fact that a man regarded as one of the century’s greatest peace makers is now behind it could unblock some logjams, analysts say.

They look at his success record in South Africa, where he put 27 years as a political prisoner behind him and negotiated with the apartheid oppressors to launch the first, and relatively peaceful, democratic elections in 1994.

And they look at his towering status among Arab states that supported him during the anti-apartheid struggle: Libya, Iran, Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization.

Mandela’s mission coincides with arrangements for Middle East parties, including Israelis and Palestinians, to meet on Tuesday in Oslo, Norway, with Clinton to take stock of success since a peace accord was reached six years ago.

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