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Mandela: SA's greatest son laid to rest (slideshow)
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Madiba magic on hold for Middle East
Former South African President Nelson Mandela said this week he was prepared to help Middle East peace efforts if possible.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela said this week he was prepared to help Middle East peace efforts if possible, but the government ruled out any immediate role for the 82-year-old statesman.

"I am watching developments and I'm prepared to help if that is possible," Mandela told state-run SABC television.

"But the help that one can give is if you talk to all these countries, and I wouldn't really waste time by talking to individual countries," he said.
SABC said Mandela was in contact with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Israeli and Palestinian leaders on the situation in the Middle East.

Mandela said the belligerents needed to follow a three-point peace plan for the Middle East which he produced in October last year after visiting the region.

Under the plan, Israel would withdraw from Arab land it has occupied since the 1967 Six-Day War, Arab states would recognise Israel's sovereignty, and an international commission would be set up to resolve questions such as the status of Jerusalem and the future of Jewish settlers on the West Bank.

Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad earlier told journalists that Mandela would not become involved in mediation efforts at this point, unless called on to do so.

Pahad was speaking before a parliamentary debate on the Middle East in which some members of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) donned the trademark keffiyeh, favoured by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Pahad told the National Assembly that Mbeki had met Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak twice in the past few weeks and was in "constant telephonic communication" with him and Israeli and Palestinian officials at all levels over the crisis.

A senior foreign ministry official said last month that Mandela, a respected negotiator, would contribute to efforts to find peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, after discussions with President Thabo Mbeki.

Arafat, on a visit to South Africa in August, urged Mandela to act as a mediator in the conflict.
Mandela replied that the task could not be "an individual initiative."

Tony Leon, leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance, pointed out that the Pretoria government had sold R42m worth of arms to Israel since 1997, according to official figures. - AFP