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UN chief hails Nelson Mandela as "giant of our times"


09:18, July 18, 2013

UNITED NATIONS, July 17 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday paid respect to Nelson Mandela, who he called "a giant of our times," and urged action to build a peaceful, sustainable and equitable world.

"As we extend our best wishes to President Mandela on his ninety-fifth birthday, let us also give tangible meaning to our feelings of concern by taking action on behalf of others," Ban said in a message marking the Nelson Mandela International Day on July 18, which was declared by the UN in 2009 to mark the former South African president's 67 years of public services.

The UN chief called on people around the world to devote at least 67 minutes of their time on Thursday to community service, to honor the former South African leader who gave 67 years of his life to the struggle for human rights and social justice.

"The heart of Nelson Mandela International Day is good works for people and the planet," Ban said, noting that the theme of the day -- take action, inspire change -- "is meant to mobilize the human family to do more to build a peaceful, sustainable and equitable world."

"This is the best tribute we can pay to an extraordinary man who embodies the highest values of humanity," said Ban, who extolled Mandela as a "universally revered leader."

"At this difficult time, our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Mandela, his family and with all the people of South Africa," Ban said. "We are united in admiration for a giant of our times."

Mandela, who served as South Africa's first black president from 1994 to 1999, has been hospitalized since June 8 for a recurring lung infection, his longest hospital stay in years. He will spend his 95th birthday on Thursday in a Pretoria hospital.

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