Mandela Honors Gadhafi in Libya

ZUWARAH, Libya -- South African President Nelson Mandela returned Wednesday to Libya to honor Moammar Gadhafi with South Africa's highest award for a foreigner. Gadhafi used the occasion to ridicule the United States and Britain.


The meeting, the second in less than a week, came as a surprise and prompted speculation that Mandela might try to mediate an end to five-year-old UN sanctions backed by the United States and Britain. South African officials, however, denied Mandela had any such plans.


Gadhafi said Mandela's visit was simply an expression of support for Libya. He reiterated his refusal to turn over the two Libyan agents suspected of masterminding the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people.


The sanctions, which were meant to force Libya to turn over the two men for trial, limit diplomatic contacts, ban arms sales and prohibit flights to and from the North African country.


"Asking Libya to hand over its citizens to America or Britain is a silly matter that makes us laugh, especially after the price we have had to pay," Gadhafi said at a news conference.


Mandela made a two-day visit to Libya last week on his way to a commonwealth summit in Britain, dismissing U.S. criticism.


Wednesday's visit to Zuwarah, a coastal town about 100 kilometers west of the capital, Tripoli, came on his return to South Africa. Mandela, 79, arrived by car from neighboring Tunisia.


At a brief welcoming ceremony with bagpipes, a guard held a red Scottish tartan-plaid umbrella over Mandela's head to shield him from the sun. The two leaders held hands as they walked toward a tent for a five-minute meeting. At times, the crowd chanted in English, "Long live Mandela!"


The South African leader then awarded Gadhafi the Order of Good Hope, South Africa's highest award for a foreigner. Mandela received a similar award from Libya last week.


After receiving the South African medal, Gadhafi said he was more honored by Mandela's visit.


"Our award is your presence on Libyan territory despite America's refusal," Gadhafi said.