Mandela, Chirac discuss charity work

Former French president Jacques Chirac on Wednesday discussed his plans to set up a foundation with Nelson Mandela, who is on a private visit to France to raise funds for his charity institutes.

Chirac is, in the coming months, to launch a foundation devoted to the environment and promoting understanding among cultures, which is to be headed by former International Monetary Fund managing director Michel Camdessus.

Mandela (89) arrived in Paris on Monday for a three-day visit to raise funds for his Johannesburg foundations that are devoted to combating Aids and helping children.

Chirac met with the anti-apartheid hero in a Paris hotel to discuss whether their foundations could work together, said an official in Mandela’s entourage.

The former South African president was the guest of honour late on Tuesday at a dinner at the Elysee presidential palace hosted by President Nicolas Sarkozy, who presented him with original photographs taken in 1952 of one of the first anti-apartheid protests.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Sarkozy’s billionaire businessman friend Vincent Bollore also attended the dinner.

Mandela gave the French president an autographed picture of his emotional return visit to Robben Island, where he spent 18 years in prison.

The photographs from Sarkozy were taken by Jurgen Schadeberg, a German-born photojournalist who spent years in apartheid South Africa, working in particular for Drum, and who now lives in France.

They show a young Mandela, then a member of the African National Congress Youth League, taking part in one of the first protests against white minority rule, said presidential spokesperson David Martinon.

Sarkozy’s office underscored that the French leader admires Mandela, who led the struggle against apartheid and became South Africa’s first black president in 1994.

The president ”wanted to show France’s support for Mr Mandela’s current endeavours”, saying the elder statesman ”remains a freedom fighter in the struggle that he now wages with his foundation against poverty, Aids and for education”.

Mandela arrived from Monaco where on Sunday he attended a fundraising dinner hosted by Prince Albert II to help his children’s foundation in Johannesburg. — Sapa-AFP

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