Sweden hails Mandela: ‘He changed the world’

Leaders in Sweden called Nelson Mandela a "role model", adding their voices to a global chorus of praise and remembrance for South Africa's first black president, who died on Thursday at the age of 95.

Sweden hails Mandela: 'He changed the world'
Nelson Mandela, shown here in a 2005 file photo, died on Thursday at the age of 95. Photo: AP

"Nelson Mandela was a person who changed the world," Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said in a statement.

"He was deeply convinced of the equality between human beings and had an equally strong commitment and capacity for reconciliation. He chose reconciliation where others would have chosen revenge.

"He created a new South Africa and gave people all over the world someone to look up to and a role model."

News of the passing of Mandela, who had been ill for several months, was confirmed by South African President Jacob Zuma late Thursday night. He called Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison in his fight to end apartheid in South Africa, his county's "greatest son".

IN PICTURES: Mandela in Sweden

Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven expressed feelings of "great sorrow and emptiness" upon hearing the news of Mandela's death.

"This was one of the democracy's absolutely greatest champions. I've long considered Nelson Mandela a huge role model," he told the TT news agency.

Former Social Democrat Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson recalled his first meeting with Mandela, who along with former South African President F.W. de Klerk won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

"Tall, refined, and with his warm eyes he said that today there are many who want to be our friends and he was glad for that. But we'll never forget those who were our friends when things were tough. And that includes Sweden and that includes Olof Palme," Carlsson told TT.

Foreign Minister Carl Bildt took to Twitter immediately following news that Mandela had passed, calling him "a giant of our age".

"For freedom. For rights of everyone. For reconciliation. For compassion. A world in deep grief," he wrote.

On his blog, Bildt described Mandela as a "humble man with a warm disposition and disarming self-distance".

Jan Eliasson, current Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations and former Swedish foreign minister, also remembered Mandela as a "giant of international politics".

"He was a living symbol for justice, for everyone's equal value and for forgiveness," said Eliasson, according to the TT news agency.

"He spent 27 years in prison in his fight against apartheid. He came out without bitterness so that he, together with all citizens, could build a new South Africa. This was something of historic significance not only for Africa, but also for the entire world."

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