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Taiwan hopes to attend Mandela's funeral

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan is hoping to send a delegation to join Nelson Mandela's funeral to be held later this month, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday.

World leaders from more than 50 countries, including U.S. President Barack Obama and his two predecessors, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, are scheduled to attend the South African anti-apartheid politician's funeral to be held on Dec. 15.

An unidentified MOFA source told local media yesterday that Taiwan, a former diplomatic ally of South Africa, is also hoping to attend the funeral to be held in Qunu, the village in Eastern Cape province where Mandela was born.

Upon learning of the death of South Africa's first black president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Taipei's representative office in Johannesburg sent a letter to South African authorities to extend President Ma Ying-jeou's condolences to Mandela's family, the South African government and people.

The Taiwanese representative office also established close contact with South African authorities to extend its wish to send a delegation to Mandela's funeral, the MOFA source aid.

However, as Taiwan no longer has official ties with the African country and attendance to the memorial service is by invitation only, it is unlikely that Taiwan will be invited to join the event, the source said.

According to MOFA, Taiwan held a close relationship with Mandela and South Africa for decades.

Mandela visited Taiwan in 1993 under his capacity as leader of the African National Congress (ANC) and received a decoration from then-R.O.C. President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝). Lee later flew to South Africa to attend Mandela's inauguration ceremony in May 1994. Mandela was president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.

The R.O.C. established official diplomatic ties with the nation in 1976. Mandela, however, announced in November 1996 that South Africa would instead recognize Beijing by the end of 1997, ending the country's 21-year relationship with Taipei.

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