Mandela Looks Forward To New Role In Burundi

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (PANA) - Former President Nelson Mandela is preparing for his role as the new mediator in the Burundi peace process.
The South African leader was appointed to the position by six African heads of states on Wednesday, after they expressed confidence that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate will help secure a breakthrough in the conflict which has claimed an estimated 150,000 lives since 1993.

President Thabo Mbeki heralded Mandela's appointment as an indication of the confidence regional leaders had in South Africa to help resolve regional and continental conflict.

He said the South African government would do all it could to help the peace process in Burundi. It and had already seconded senior South African officials to assist, he added.

Mandela, 81, replaced Julius Nyerere, the former Tanzanian president who died in October after trying unsuccessfully for more than a year to broker peace in the war-ravaged central African nation.

Mandela's spokesman, Parks Mankahlana, on Thursday said a key figure in the Burundi peace process, Judge Mark Bomani, will travel to South Africa on Saturday to brief Mandela on the latest developments in Burundi.

Just a week ago, Mandela said he was reluctant to mediate in the conflicts in the Great Lakes region because he is still heavily involved in the Middle East peace process.

Last month, Mandela held talks with Syrian President Hafez Assad, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat during a visit to the Middle East.

The visit was Mandela's first to Israel and fulfilled a long-standing invitation from the Jewish state. The visit was seen as a gesture to both Israel and the Palestinians for the progress they have made in the peace process.

The world statesman has urged the Middle East leaders to build on revived peace initiatives put in place since Barak took office in July.

Mandela pulled off a major diplomatic success in April when his controversial friendship with Libya's Moammar Kadhafi helped pave the way for the surrender of the suspects in the Lockerbie bombing which effectively ended Libya's international isolation.

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