JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Former South African President Nelson Mandela said on Friday the United States was not an impartial peacemaker in the Middle East and a multi-national initiative was needed to end the violence.
Mandela, speaking at a news conference after talks with French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, said the United States should join Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Britain and France to mediate a settlement.
``It is completely wrong that the United States must be the mediator in this conflict. Everybody knows the United States is a friend of Israel,'' he said.
Mandela was flanked by the French premier, who is on a two-day official visit to South Africa as part of French efforts to extend its influence beyond its former colonies, mainly in West Africa.
He said the five countries together stood a stronger chance of negotiating peace in the violence-torn region.
``Those five together should now negotiate a settlement. One advantage is that if there is a settlement, it is guaranteed it will have universal support.
``Whereas if a settlement is brought about by one country, even if it is a superpower, there is no guarantee it will have support.''
At least 450 Palestinians, 91 Israelis and 13 Israeli Arabs have been killed in the eight-month-old Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
A limited cease-fire announced by Israel last week was rejected as a propaganda ploy by Palestinian leaders and has failed to stop the bloodshed.
Mandela renewed South Africa's support for the Palestinians and their leader, Yasser Arafat.
``As far as we are concerned what is being done to the Palestinians is a matter of grave concern. We are the friends of Yasser Arafat. We are the friends of the Palestinians. We support their struggle,'' he said.