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Mandela Explains Support for PLO, Gadhafi, Castro With AM-Mandela

June 22, 1990 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ Nelson Mandela said Thursday he backs PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Libya’s Col. Moammar Gadhafi because they have supported South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement ″to the hilt.″

″One of the mistakes that the outside world makes is to think that their enemies should be our enemies,″ he said during the taping of a television special. ″Our attitude toward any country is determined by the attitude of that country toward our struggle.″

Mandela also warned that efforts by western countries such as the United States to help South African President F.W. de Klerk’s reform program will have the opposite effect, by driving white South Africans into the arms of the country’s racist right wing.

″Please, whatever you do, don’t do that,″ he said. ″You are playing with fire if you think of rewarding Mr. de Klerk, because you will undermine his position.″

On the second day of his U.S. trip, the visiting leader of the African National Congress faced questions at a videotaped ″Town Meeting″ attended by some 1,000 invited guests on the City College of New York campus. Ted Koppel, moderator of ABC’s ″Nightline,″ was host for the hour-long program, taped for broadcast later Thursday.

Koppel commented at the outset that some questions would be provocative, and the hand-picked group, overwhelmingly pro-Mandela, erupted in cheers and applause several times as Mandela responded firmly, sometimes with biting sarcasm, to questions about his political and economic views.

A Harlem lawyer, observing that some ″new African states″ had fallen into economic chaos, asked whether an ANC-controlled economy ″would be based on socialism, Marxism or capitalism.″

Mandela replied that his group was made up of ″practical men and women whose solutions (to problems) are dictated by the circumstances in our country. ... What we want is a healthy and vibrant economy with full employment and the development of social justice,″ eliminating poverty and disease and providing adequate education.

″We will leave it to other people to give it a label if they so wish,″ he said.

Kenneth Adelman, former director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency under President Ronald Reagan, asked Mandela why he embraced Arafat, Gadhafi and Cuban President Fidel Castro, leaders that the United States accuses of supporting or encouraging international terrorism.

″Yasser Arafat, Colonel Gadhafi, Fidel Castro support our struggle to the hilt,″ said Mandela. ″There is no reason whatsoever why we should have any hesitation about their commitment to human rights in South Africa. They are placing resources at our disposal to win the struggle.″

At another point, he described Arafat as ″a comrade in arms, and we will treat him as such.″

Koppel, cautioning Mandela not to be ″misled by a hometown crowd,″ said his views would not be well received by other Americans, especially Jews, and might imperil Congressional support for sustaining economic sanctions against South Africa.

Mandela said his organization ″sympathizes with the struggle of the Jewish people down the years″ and recalled that Jewish lawyers were the first to defend him and his ANC colleagues arrested for resisting the minority regime in South Africa.

″That does not mean that the enemies of Israel are our enemies. Anyone who changes his principles, depending on who he is dealing with, is not a man who can lead a nation,″ Mandela said.

Sen. David Boren, D-Okla., said he thought Mandela would find strong support for continuing the anti-apartheid sanctions during his 12-day, eight- city tour of the United States.

″The American people, regardless of other issues, are not about to relieve the pressure until that is resolved,″ he said.

In one brief departure from the format, an official of South Africa’s rightist Conservative Party was shown on videotape asking Mandela what role he foresaw for the country’s white minority under a black majority regime. ″You can’t have it all, Nelson,″ said the official. ″Stop your violence, stop your campaign for sanctions, stop your nonsense.″

The question prompted Mandela to praise de Klerk for his efforts at reform of the apartheid system, at the same time warning that too much outside help could prove the president’s undoing by reinforcing right wing claims that he is a puppet of the United States and Great Britain.

In an interview with New York Times editors and writers, Mandela said the African National Congress wasn’t committed to socialism as the only way to redress the economic disparities between South Africa’s whites and blacks.

″We are not looking at any particular model,″ Mandela told the Times. ″As far as economic policy is concerned, our sole concern is that the inequalities which are to be found in the economy should be redressed.″

In his first speech after he was released in February, Mandela called for a ″fundamental restructuring″ of his country’s economy. The ANC has long supported nationalization of important industries.

Mandela, however, told the Times: ″If anybody can indicate to us that there are other options which will enable us to rectify this imbalance, we will certainly look at that option and the question of nationalization for us will not be an option at all.″