Thursday, 22 October 2015

Mandela, Gaddafi and Lockerbie

[What follows is the text of a report headlined Nelson Mandela visits Libya, embraces Moammar Gadhafi that was published on the CNN website on this date in 1997. It reads as follows:]

South African President Nelson Mandela was shown on Libyan state television embracing Moammar Gadhafi in front of his military barracks home in Tripoli.

Thousands of Libyans gathered in the capital's streets on Wednesday to welcome Mandela, according to official Libyan media monitored in Cairo.

Mandela is on his first presidential visit to the diplomatically isolated North African nation. He has scheduled two days of talks with Gadhafi.

"Mandela is not only South African but he is also a symbol for the peoples of the entire world," Gadhafi was quoted by official media as saying at a late-night dinner for Mandela.

The two leaders were shown punching their fists into the air just before listening to each other's national anthem.

The United States and Great Britain have objected to Mandela's visit, because of Libya's refusal to turn over two suspects in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland that claimed 270 lives.

Mandela drove into Libya from Tunisia, in observance of a United Nations air embargo on Libya over the bombing.

His motorcade stopped at the site of the ruins of a residence of Gadhafi that had been bombed by U.S. warplanes in 1986. He was welcomed to the spot with an honor guard and a band.

Mandela visited Libya in 1990 after his release from 27 years in jail, and 1994, after his election as South Africa's first black leader but before he took office.

"President Mandela is coming to thank the people of Libya for standing by the African National Congress during the years of struggle against apartheid," said Ebrahim Saley, South Africa's ambassador to Tunisia and Libya.

[RB: President Mandela was on his way to Edinburgh for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held there between 24 and 27 October 1997. This meeting (and a press conference during it involving, amongst others, Dr Jim Swire, Dr David Fieldhouse and me) was a very important milestone on the tortuous path towards a neutral venue Lockerbie trial.]

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