News and Information

Mbeki to attend Arafat funeral despite talks
November 11, 2004

November 11 2004 at 02:51PM

Pretoria - South African President Thabo Mbeki's trip to Cairo for the funeral of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Friday will not scupper his scheduled talks with Ivorian political leaders in Pretoria.

Presidential spokesperson Bheki Khumalo said on Thursday that Mbeki would meet the Ivorians in the afternoon before departing for Cairo. He would resume discussions with the visiting politicians at the weekend.

"The president will meet with opposition groups in Pretoria on Thursday afternoon, fly out to Cairo on Thursday night and then head back to South Africa to continue talks with the opposition groups in Pretoria."

Khumalo described Mbeki's trip to Egypt as "an in-and-out visit".

Mbeki also scheduled to meet the head of the European Union
"The African National Congress and the Palestinian Liberation Army have come a long way together. The president and Yasser Arafat were also very close and his death has touched the president personally," Khumalo said.

Arafat died on Thursday morning at the age of 75 in a French military hospital outside Paris, where he had been comatose for over a week.

Khumalo said Mbeki would attend Arafat's funeral on Friday and then come back to Pretoria to continue talks with political parties from the Ivory Coast. These, he said, were scheduled to last well into the weekend.

This is the second stage in Mbeki's attempt this week to broker peace in the conflict-ridden country. Requested to intervene by the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States, Mbeki led a one-day mission to Ivory Coast on Tuesday accompanied by deputy foreign minister Aziz Pahad and Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota, where they met President Laurent Gbagbo.

Fighting between the rebel-held north, and the government-controlled south of Ivory Coast flared up again last week.

Recent clashes between government, rebels, and the French military shattered an 18-month-old ceasefire this week, and at least 130 people have been killed.

Mbeki is reportedly also scheduled to meet the head of the European Union, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, next week to discuss the Ivory Coast. - Sapa


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