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World mourns passing of iconic Mandela

Updated: 2013-12-06 11:15

BEIJING - Countries worldwide and international organizations sent condolences to South Africa and the family of Nelson Mandela after the world's anti-apartheid icon and one of the most outstanding statesmen of our time passed away late Thursday.

South African President Jacob Zuma, in a midnight televised speech, told the country and the world that "Our beloved Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the founding president of our democratic nation has departed."

Mandela passed on peacefully in the company of his family at around 20:50 pm local time (1850 GMT) on December 5, said Zuma, who then announced a state funeral for the country's ex-president in office from 1994 to 1999.

World mourns passing of iconic Mandela
Special: Nelson Mandela

Mandela had battled health problems in recent months, including a recurring lung problem, the result of his longtime imprisonment during the apartheid times. He was released from hospital in early September after an 85-day stay and was then treated at home.

"He is now resting. He is now at peace," Zuma said. "Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father."

"Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss," he said.

Mandela, born in 1918 to a rural family in South Africa, joined the African National Congress (ANC) party in the early 1940s. Yet he spent 27 years in prison starting from 1962 after being convicted of treason by the then white minority government in South Africa, only to forge a peaceful end to white rule by negotiating with his captors after his release in 1990.

He led the ANC, a long banned liberation movement, to a resounding electoral victory in 1994.

"He loved the ANC... Our nation has lost a colossus, an epitome of humility, equality, justice, peace and the hope of millions, here and abroad," the now ruling ANC said in a statement after Mandela's departure.

"His life gives us the courage to push forward for development and progress toward ending hunger and poverty," the ANC said, adding "We have you ... as our nearest and brightest star to guide us on our way. We will not get lost."

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday expressed deep grief over the passing of Mandela.

In a message of condolences to his South African counterpart Zuma, Xi said the Chinese people will always remember Mandela's extraordinary contribution to the development of bilateral relations and the cause of human progress.

Calling the late South African leader "an old friend of the Chinese people," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said in a written press release that Mandela made historical contributions to the establishment and development of China-South Africa relations.

"We express deep condolences over the passing of Mr. Mandela and convey sincere sympathy to the South African government and people and to Mr. Mandela's family," Hong said.

For his part, UN chief Ban Ki-moon called Mandela "a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration." He told reporters in New York that he was saddened by the passing of the South African icon, and gave his "deepest condolence" to the family of Mandela and the people of South Africa and Africa as a whole.

All representatives of the 15 UN Security Council members, who were attending an open council meeting on Thursday afternoon, rose and stood in silent tribute.

"Mandela devoted his life to the service of his people and humanity, and he did so at great personal sacrifice," Ban said. "His principled stance and the moral force that underpinned it were decisive in dismantling the system of apartheid."

European Union (EU) leaders also regretted the passing of Mandela, with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy calling him "one of the greatest political figures of our times," and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso lauding his efforts in changing the "course of history for his people, country, continent and the world."

"He taught us all a major lesson in reconciliation, political transition and social transformation," the two EU leaders said in a joint statement.

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, extended condolences to Mandela's family and the people of South Africa as well.

"Nelson Mandela was a courageous and visionary leader who enabled his country to confront its past and inspired its people to address an extraordinary set of challenges," said Lagarde in a statement, which spoke highly of Mandela's "deep principles, skillful diplomacy and quiet dignity" that were key to achieving national reconciliation and nation building.

"The extraordinary global reach of Nelson Mandela's admirers is testimony to his profound contribution to making South Africa and the world a better place," Lagarde added.

US President Barack Obama, for his part, said the former South African president had achieved more than "could be expected of any man."

Obama hailed Mandela as a man who had made real his ideal of "a democratic and free society" in which all live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.

"And today, he's gone home. We've lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth."

"He no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages," he added.

French President Francois Hollande considered Mandela a "tireless fighter of apartheid" with "his courage, persistence and perseverance."

"(Mandela's) message will not disappear and will continue to inspire freedom fighters and give confidence to the people that defend the right causes and universal rights," Hollande said.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff also mourned the passing of the Nobel Peace Prize winner, saying Mandela's example "will guide all those who fight for social justice and for peace in the world."

Deeming Mandela a "truly great man," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Friday that he was "arguably one of the great figures of the last century" and "will forever be remembered as more than a political leader," but "a moral leader."

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper also mourned the loss of a great statesmen, who was "filled by a longing for truth and reconciliation, and for an understanding between all peoples."

For their parts, German Chancellor Angela Merkel regarded Mandela a "shining example" whose political legacy of nonviolence and the condemnation of all forms of racism will continue inspiring people around the world, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Mandela "worked to mend the tears in South African society and with his character managed to prevent outbursts of racial hatred."

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