Raul Castro to attend Mandela's funeral

2013-12-09 06:06:40 GMT2013-12-09 14:06:40(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

HAVANA, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) -- Cuban leader Raul Castro is going to attend the funeral of Nelson Mandela slated for Dec. 15, the official NTV news reported Sunday.

Castro is to be accompanied by Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, Cuba's ambassador in Pretoria.

Mandela, the first black president of South Africa, died Thursday night at the age of 95 at his home in Johannesburg.

Considering Mandela a "close" friend of Cuba and its revolution leader Fidel Castro, Cuban authorities declared three days of national mourning between Friday and Sunday.

The legendary South African leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner of 1993 visited Cuba in July 1991 as president of the African National Congress, a few months after his release from prison.

Raul Castro expressed "deep sorrow" over Mandela's passing, and praised "the height of his example" and the "greatness of his work."

"He will always be remembered by his example, his work, the strength of his convictions in the fight against apartheid, and for his invaluable contribution to the construction of a new South Africa," the Cuban leader said.

"I profess profound respect and admiration, not only for what he did for his people, but for his proved friendship to our country," said Raul Castro.

Cuba and South Africa established formal relations in 1994. At present, the two countries maintain close cooperation ties in such areas as education, health, construction and mining.

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