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Mandela: Israel should exist, but Arafat a 'comrade in arms'

By CLIFFORD J. LEVY

NEW YORK -- In remarks that seemed certain to reincur the wrath of Jews worldwide, Nelson Mandela Thursday called Yasser Arafat 'a comrade in arms' and said the African National Congress identifies with the PLO.

But during an afternoon taping of ABC's 'A Town Meeting with Nelson Mandela,' the South African leader also said the ANC sympathizes with 'the Jewish struggle' and recognizes Israel's right to exist.

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'As far as Yasser Arafat is concerned, we identify with the PLO because just like ourselves they are fighting for the right to delf-determination,' Mandela said. 'The support for Yasser Arafat in his struggle does not mean that the ANC does not doubt the right of Israel to exist as a state legally.'

But the anti-apartheid activist said he still supported the PLO because of its longstanding support, both financial and moral, for the ANC.

'One of the mistakes which some political analysts make is to think that their enemies should be our enemies,' Mandela said. 'We can't and we never will. We have our own struggle.'

Mandela has made similar remarks before, prompting a delegation of prominent Jewish leaders to meet with him in Geneva earlier this month to clarify the ANC's position on Israel and the PLO.

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Responding to a question from Kenneth Adelman, the former head of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency who is Jewish, Mandela said Arafat, Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Libyan leader Co. Moammar Gadhafi 'support our struggle to the hilt.'

'Our attitude is based soley on the fact that they fully support the anti-apartheid struggle,' he said. 'They do not support it only in rhetoric. They are placing resources at our disposal. We have no time to be looking into the internal affairs of other countries.

'Our attitude toward any country is determined by the attitude of that country toward our struggle,' Mandela said. 'It would be a grave mistake for us to consider our attitude toward Yasser Arafat on the basis of the interests of the Jewish community. Arafat is a comrade in arms and we treat him as such.'

Henry Siegman, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, was a member of the delegation that travelled to Geneva two weeks ago to meet with Mandela and came away happy with his stands on the Middle East.

But when Siegman had a chance to ask a question during Thursday's taping, the Jewish leader said he was upset by Mandela's earlier remarks during the program.

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Mandela mentioned that he greatly valued the support of Jews in South Africa and around the world and noted he had been trained as a lawyer by a Jewish law firm at a time when few blacks were allowed in white companies.

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