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Amnesty International honours Mandela
Amnesty International bestowed its most prestigious honour -- the Ambassador of Conscience Award 2006 -- on former president Nelson Mandela.

Amnesty International bestowed its most prestigious honour -- the Ambassador of Conscience Award 2006 -- on former president Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

The award recognises exceptional individual leadership in the fight to protect and promote universal human rights.

Amnesty International spokesperson Bill Shipsey said Mandela had come to symbolise all that was hopeful and idealistic in public life, more than any other living person.

"Mandela, through his fight and victory against apartheid, showed the world that no problem is too difficult to solve, including the Aids pandemic."

He said not only did Mandela fearlessly lead the people of South Africa, but also brought hope and inspiration to the whole world.

"Today, the world badly needs the kind of enlightened leadership that exemplifies the life and work of Mandela. He belongs to the world," said Shipsey.

He said Mandela advocated true justice for all.

Mandela is the fourth recipient of the award since its inception in 2003.

Previous recipients are the Irish rock group, U2; the Czech poet and former president Vaclav Havel; and former United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Mary Robinson.

The award was presented by Nobel literature laureate Nadine Gordimer, who also praised Mandela for his preparedness "to live and die for the oppressed and voiceless".

Accepting the award, Mandela said he had struggled for human rights for many years, and the award was a step towards fighting injustices in the whole world.

"I have declared my retirement from all this, but none of us can fully rest as long as inequalities and unfairness continue in the world," said Mandela.

He said he had fought against slavery, apartheid, the abuse of women, poverty and other injustices "and there is hope that the world will live in harmony one day".

Among dignitaries attending the award ceremony at the Nelson Mandela Foundation's office were Mandela's former lawyer George Bizos, former education minister Kader Asmal and businessman Tokyo Sexwale. -- Sapa