CAPE TOWN - South Africa’s next generation of leaders should honor the legacy of anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela by promoting democratic values around the world, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday.
She also called on South Africa, which voluntarily gave up itsnuclear weapons program from 1989, to use its long-standing links with Tehran to persuade Iran to reconsider its suspected pursuit ofnuclear weapons.
Clinton, speaking two days after visiting the 94-year-old Mandela, said South Africa’s legacy of peacefully overturning apartheid brought with it responsibilities.
“Few countries on this continent can carry as much weight or be such effective partners and leaders as South Africa,” Clinton told university students in Cape Town, in a speech billed as the centerpiece of an 11-day Africa tour.
“You are a democratic power with the opportunity to influence Africa and the world.”
Clinton’s speech was a strong call for South Africa to do more on everything from promoting economic development to solving global challenges, such as Syria’s bloody crisis or the impasse over Iran’s nuclear program.
“As the first country to voluntarily give up nuclear weapons, South Africa speaks with rare authority,” Clinton said.
South Africa’s ruling African National Congress has had close ties with the Islamic leaders of Iran as well as with Western powers trying to put pressure on Tehran to end what they suspect is a drive to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
“You can most convincingly make the case that giving up nuclear weapons is a sign of strength, not weakness,” she said
Peppering her remarks with personal reminiscences of Mandela, Clinton tried to underscore that South Africa’s own democratic values called it to greater action.
“I do believe because of your history South Africa has an obligation to be a constructive force in the international community – just as the United States does,” she said.
South Africa’s white-minority apartheid government, which ruled until 1994, developed a nuclear arms program.
The decision to dismantle the program came as the Cold War was ending and Pretoria saw less need for weapons to counter a communist threat. The apartheid regime was also trying to improve its tainted global image. (Reuters)