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S. Africa talks will begin soon, Mandela predicts

CAPE TOWN, South Africa - Black nationalist leader Nelson Mandela said Monday he wanted to make white South Africans who fear for their security feel safe about the prospect of black-majority rule and predicted that negotiations over the nation's future will begin soon. Mandela, enjoying his first full day of freedom after his release Sunday from 27 1/2 years in prison, also suggested that his African National Congress (ANC) might stop its armed struggle against the white-minority government if Pretoria ended a 4-year-old state-of-emergency and agreed to other concessions.

"Whites are fellow South Africans and we want them to feel safe and (to know) that we appreciate the contribution they have made towards the development of the country," he said at a 50-minute press conference, his first since being freed.

Mandela struck the conciliatory note that the government and the white community were hoping for from the central figure in the decadeslong struggle against Pretoria's apartheid racial segregation policies. His tone Monday was less militant than on Sunday when he addressed supporters just hours after his release from prison and called for the ANC's armed struggle to be intensified and economic sanctions against South Africa to be continued.

But even as he tried to calm whites' fears, he declared support Monday for the nationalization of key South African industries, setting off concern in the business community. Gold prices fell 4 percent on the Johannesburg stock exchange and the financial rand, a special currency used to encourage foreign investment, plummeted 10 percent.

Mandela's release caused near hysteria among many of his supporters, prompting him to postpone plans to return to his home in Soweto, on the outskirts of Johannesburg, until today. He flew from Cape Town to Johannesburg, but for security reasons, spent the night at an undisclosed place north of the city.

As the nation's black townships have become electric with celebration over Mandela's release, violence has risen sharply. Police reported 40 people killed and scores injured since Sunday, including 10 shot when police opened fire on looters who broke away from celebratory crowds near East London on Sunday. In Soweto, 200 people attending a rally at a stadium were injured when they were crushed against a security fence.

In Cape Town on Monday, the 71-year-old Mandela fielded questions from the international press corps in the spacious garden of Bishopscourt, the official residence of Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu where he spent his first night of freedom in the calm of one of the city's nicest white suburbs. Speaking in a soft but self-assured voice, Mandela projected a certainty of purpose that seemed not a bit diminished by his years in prison.

Seated before a table in the shade of an apple blossom tree, with his wife, Winnie, to his left and compatriots Walter and Albertina Sisulu to his right, Mandela tried to provide some insight into the torment he suffered during his years in prison and his feelings about being freed and greeted by jubilant followers.

"I must confess that I am unable to describe my emotions. I was completely overwhelmed by the enthusiasm. It is something I did not expect.

"It was breathtaking; that's all I can say," he said.

Mandela said that he had "lost a great deal" during his incarceration. "My wife has been under all sorts of pressures. It is not nice for a man to see his family struggling," he said.

His jailers, however, sympathized with his plight and had done everything possible to make him "as happy as possible," he said. "That has wiped out any bitterness which a man could have."

Mandela said he had been "absolutely surprised" to see so many whites welcoming him Sunday on the highway from Paarl, where the Victor Verster prison is located, into Cape Town.

And he stressed Monday that if the nation's 25-million black majority takes power, South Africa's 5-million whites would have a future here.

"The ANC is very much concerned to address the question of the concern of whites over the (black) demand of one person, one vote," he said.

"They insist on structural guarantees to ensure that the realization of this demand does not result in the domination of whites by blacks. We understand those feelings and the ANC is concerned to address that problem and to find a solution which will suit both the blacks and the whites of this country," he said.

He did not discuss what kind of compromise he might strike with the government over constitutional protections for the country's whites if blacks came to power, saying the "actual structure of guarantees" would be developed once negotiations got under way.

Asked whether he felt talks between the ANC and the government of President Frederik de Klerk would occur, Mandela said he was "very confident that that day is not very far.

"One thing I have been able to assess is that Mr. de Klerk is a man of integrity," he said. "He seems to be fully aware of the danger to a public figure of making undertakings which he fails to honor and I think that is a very promising sign."

He said he was "confident" that de Klerk wanted to complete the normalizaton of political life he had recently begun by lifting a 30-year ban on all black opposition parties and allowing them to resume their activities.

"Therefore, I think that very soon obstacles to negotiation will be removed and it will be possible for us to sit down and talk," Mandela said.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who is visiting South Africa, praised de Klerk for freeing Mandela, saying he had taken a step comparable in historic scope to Abraham Lincoln when he ended slavery in America.

"This was a courageous step for President de Klerk," he told the Cape Town Press Club, noting that Monday was the 181st anniversary of Lincoln's birthday. Both Lincoln and de Klerk, Jackson added, "rose above history and tradition at the risk of losing themselves."

Favorable reaction to the release of Mandela continued to pour in Monday from throughout the world, but most countries said the release was not enough to warrant easing sanctions.

In Washington, President Bush told a news conference Monday he was not willing to lift economic sanctions on South Africa at this time but he was prepared to take other steps to support de Klerk.

Bush hailed de Klerk as the exemplar of "a new brand of leadership - a man who is making dramatic changes," moving South Africa "down the road toward racial equity" and away from apartheid.

A senior Bush administration official said on Monday that the United States was considering "gestures" of support for South Africa that could be made before Pretoria meets the five statutory criteria for the lifting of sanctions.

One such gesture is Bush's invitation to de Klerk to visit the United States. Another under study is to grant landing rights for South African aircraft.

In London, Britain called for a swift relaxation of sanctions against South Africa to save de Klerk from being toppled by a white backlash. The 12-nation European Community appeared likely to isolate Britain on the issue.

The Soviet Union, which armed Mandela's African National Congress guerrilla movement, and China joined in expressions of delight at Mandela's freedom.