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German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday met former South African president Nelson Mandela and declared afterwards that it had been a "very moving moment" to meet the hero of the anti-apartheid movement.
Merkel met for 45 minutes with the 89-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who was accompanied by his wife Graca Machel for what was the German leader's first personal meeting with Mandela.
"It was a very moving moment for me to experience and to speak with Nelson Mandela," said Merkel, who described him as a monument of humanity.
She noted that as a young woman living in the former communist East Germany, she had followed with interest Mandela's fight against apartheid and so it was her special wish to meet him.
With Mandela having largely withdrawn from public life, Merkel and Development Aid Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul regarded it as an honour that they were given an appointment with the former South African president.
The meeting took place in the library of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which has joined in the battle against Aids in South Africa.
There was a bit of joking when he asked Merkel whether she wanted some rum in her coffee. When she asked whether he drank rum with his coffee, he said he was too old.
When Wieczorek-Zeul disclosed that her ministry was donating about R25,2million to his foundation, Mandela said: "You have just made me younger."
Graca Machel, one of Africa's most influential women, praised Merkel for her efforts on behalf of the forthcoming EU Africa summit. But she warned the German leader not to make too much of an issue of the participation of Zimbabwe's controversial leader Robert Mugabe.
Mandela said that the most important message must be peace. Whether in Sudan, Congo or Somalia, all conflicts must be resolved through peace. He had arrived at this maxim during his many long years in prison, Mandela told Merkel.
The German Chancellor arrived in South Africa late on Thursday evening on the second leg of a three-nation trip to Africa.
She met President Thabo Mbeki on Friday. She left South Africa on Sunday, with a brief stopover in Liberia before returning home.
The German leader visited Cape Town on Saturday evening to visit an anti-Aids project set up by German priest Stefan Hippler.
The Hope (HIV Outreach Programme and Education) project aims to provide support to local health education services in the battle against Aids and other diseases. The project is chiefly financed by private donations from Germany. - Sapa-dpa