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Indonesia has very strong bond with Nelson Mandela:official

cn 2013-07-18 19:20:14 JAKARTA, July 18 (Xinhua) -- Indonesia has very strong link with South African d emocracy and anti-apartheid campaigner Nelson Mandela, said an Indonesian offici al at a meeting to mark Mandela International Day here Wednesday. "Indonesia's staunch support to anti-apartheid movement was highly respected by Nelson Mandela that made him visit Indonesia in 1990, soon after he was released from his 27-year imprisonment. His first visit to Indonesia was in 1990 as the ANC chairman. Since then he was quite frequent in visiting Indonesia," Lasro Sim bolon, director of African affairs at Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry said. Indonesia's relentless support to Mandela's anti-apartheid struggle remained act ive and was conveyed in international forums since it was initially declared by Indonesian first president Soekarno in Asia Africa Conference held in Indonesia' s city of Bandung in 1955, he noted. During his frequent visits to Indonesia, Mandela fell in love with the country's traditional cloth of Batik. Since then he has often seen wearing batik shirt in many international events, he added. After 1990, Mandela visited Indonesia as South African president in 1995 and 199 7 and as a human rights campaigner in 2002. Indonesia's former President Soehart o made a reciprocal visit to South Africa and met Nelson Mandela in November 199 7. "In respect to our closeness with Nelson Mandela, we opened our embassy in South Africa in 1994, or soon after Mandela was sworn in as the president in the new democracy era of that country," Lasro said. He added that as of now South Africa remains Indonesia's major partner in Africa . "The bilateral ties between Indonesia and South Africa have been so important an d economically-strategic as it represents the largest economies in the respectiv e regions," Lasro said. He added that Indonesia is deeply concerned about Mandela's latest health condit ion, and that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, on behalf of the Indonesian pe ople, has conveyed a letter expressing Indonesia's concern about Mandela to Sout h African President Jacob Zuma, hoping for his quick recovery. Mandela, popularly known as Madiba among South Africans, suffers from acute lung infection that made him hospitalized early last month. His condition was report ed to be critical when he entered his 95th anniversary that falls on July 18 thi s year. South African Ambassador to Indonesia Noel Lehoko who was present at the meeting said that the latest two-way trade value with Indonesia has reached 1.25 billio n U.S. dollars. Noel said that the embassy is now exploring the possibility to expand bilateral cooperation with Indonesia in economy, trade, investment and people-to-people ex changes.