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Adams meets Mandela, speaks of justice, peace

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said after a meeting with former South African president Nelson Mandela on Tuesday that his party was "very committed" to the decommissioning of arms in Northern Ireland.

"We are very committed to taking guns out of Irish politics," Adams said after his half-hour meeting in Johannesburg with Mandela and businessman Cyril Ramaphosa, who along with former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari has the task of inspecting arms stockpiles in Northern Ireland.
Violence has flared in Northern Ireland in recent months but after the September 11 attacks on the United States pressure has mounted on the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the armed wing of Sinn Fein, to hand in its weapons and on Sinn Fein to sever ties with "terrorism".

Adams said he hoped there would be justice for the people of Northern Ireland and believed the attacks in the US had made it imperative for people around the world to strive for justice.
"It is the responsibility of all people to work for justice in the wake of the US attacks," he said.
Adams also called for dialogue between people from different faiths and parts of the world in the aftermath of the terror strikes.
"The real challenge at this time is for dialogue and not retribution.

"Ordinary people talk their problems through all the time. The powers and their leaders must follow their example of these ordinary folk.
"We in the West must remember that we are not the world, we are only part of the world and dialogue between all different sections of humanity is very important."

Speaking later at the University of Witwatersrand, Adams condemned the attacks as acts of terrorism and said some of his friends had been killed.

"They had a psychological effect in Ireland ... (and) most people are thanking God that we have moved beyond that to a peace process."
He said the Northern Ireland "peace process is taking so long and people get frustrated and angry but great progress has been made thus far and needs to be built on.

"I can't call it from week to week but I am convinced we are going to get where we want: to a democratic settlement," he said.
The Sinn Fein leader added: "The big challenge to me is whether I am prepared to make peace with the British, and I am; to make peace with the Unionists, and I am."

Adams told Mandela he looked to South Africa's peaceful end to apartheid for inspiration.
"There is a challenge and that is why South Africa is such an important example for the rest of us.
"What happened in South Africa was an obscenity. I always say I cannot find anybody who was for apartheid. I hope that one day in Northern Ireland we cannot find anybody who was for partition."

Mandela told reporters he had impressed on Adams that bloodshed had to be avoided in Northern Ireland.

"My advice is to avoid any violence that might lead to bloodshed. Solving problems is never a question of pointing fingers at your enemies. The fact that there is no peace in that country is an indictment of all leaders involved in the affair," Mandela said.

The former South African president paid tribute to Adams as "a man who has a place in history." - AFP