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Abbas heads to South Africa to attend Mandela memorial
Published Monday 09/12/2013 (updated) 10/12/2013 15:35
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Candles are placed in front of the image of Nelson Mandela during
a vigil by Palestinians and members of the African community in the
Old City of Jerusalem.(AFP)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas left for Johannesburg on Monday to attend the memorial service for the iconic South African leader Nelson Mandela.

Presidential spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeina, political affairs adviser Majdi al-Khalidi, and head of the PA's general intelligence services Majid Faraj will accompany Abbas.

More than 50 heads of state and government have confirmed their intentions to travel to South Africa to pay their respects to the anti-apartheid hero who died last Thursday, South Africa's foreign ministry has said.

US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle will be among 80,000 people attending a vast memorial service Tuesday in the Soweto sports stadium that hosted the 2010 World Cup final.

The commemorations will culminate with Mandela's burial on December 15 in Qunu -- the rural village where he spent his early childhood.

In statements on Friday following Mandela's death, Abbas said, "The Palestinian people will never forget his historic statement that the South African revolution will not have achieved its goals as long as the Palestinians are not free."

Nelson Mandela was a frequent advocate of the Palestinian cause and in 1990 told ABC News that, "We identify with the PLO because, just like ourselves, they are fighting for the right of self-determination."

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided not to attend the memorial service because it is too expensive to travel to South Africa, Israeli media reported Sunday.

Netanyahu had notified the South African authorities that he would fly in but cancelled his plans at the last minute due to the costs involved -- around 7.0 million shekels ($2 million) for his transport and security alone, pubic radio and the Haaretz daily reported.

Tributes to the late South African leader flooded in from Palestinian leaders following his death.

"And from within my prison cell, I tell you our freedom seems possible because you reached yours," jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti said in an open letter to Mandela.

"Apartheid did not prevail in South Africa, and apartheid shall not prevail in Palestine," he added.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on Friday quoted Mandela as saying: "Never in the darkest hours of South Africa's apartheid have there been separated roads for blacks and whites," in an allusion to West Bank highways for Israeli use but closed to Palestinians.

AFP contributed to this report
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1 ) Mel / USA
09/12/2013 16:52
Gosh! Obama's going to pay tribute?? Consider this,if Mandela was not deceased,& had NOT been removed from the US "terrorist" watch-list only in 2008(year of Obama's re-election)then Obama might be dropping DRONE missiles on Madiva,instead? Like in AfPak?Or,just as colonial Israel drops its missiles on enclaved indigenous Palestinian CIVILIAN freedom-fighters,guerrilla's,men,women &children,in Gaza,Boer-Zionism's 'Soweto'.

2 ) jesse / usa
09/12/2013 18:15
To expensive for Netanyahu. but as usuall the PA is bursting with cash. so the PA will be going.

3 ) Haniyeh should go too / After all he REPRESENTS
09/12/2013 18:35
ONE HALF OF THE PALESTINIANS PEOPLE!!!!

4 ) Colin Wright / USA
09/12/2013 21:59
On the other hand, and rather amusingly... 'Fresh off a series of scandals over his high-flying lifestyle and expensive habits, Israel's prime minister says he will skip Nelson Mandela's funeral on Tuesday due to the high cost of the trip.' Maybe his reluctance has more to do with the thought of all those raised eyebrows. Wouldn't want to make a point of the parallel, after all.

5 ) Hanna Kawas / Canada
10/12/2013 00:45
WE REMEMBER For about twenty years, the UN General Assembly condemned Israel for its cooperation with the apartheid regime of South Africa. In Oct. 1993 "The group of African states that had moved annually to blast Israel for its relations with South Africa decided not to support the resolution after meeting with the PLO’s permanent U.N. observer, Nasser al-Kidwa. Kidwa advised the African delegates that the condemnation had no place in light of the changes that have taken place in both South A

6 ) Hanna Kawas / Canada
10/12/2013 01:40
Africa and the Middle East." While the "Oslo Accords" gave the Palestinians 20 years of continued occupation, theft of land and brutal oppression, the above is one of the many benefits it gave to Israel. Thanks to al-Kidwa and the PLO leadership!!! SEE: http://www.jta.org/1993/10/19/archive/general-assembly-wont-condemn-israel-for-ties-with-south-africa#ixzz2mwkJg9f6
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