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Mandela off U.S. terrorism watch list

  • Story Highlights
  • Nelson Mandela was on list for fighting South Africa's apartheid regime
  • He will be removed under a bill President Bush signed Tuesday
  • State Department, Homeland Security will waive restrictions
  • Mandela spent 27 years in prison for fighting South Africa's racist system
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former South African President Nelson Mandela is to be removed from a U.S. terrorism watch list under a bill President Bush signed Tuesday.

Mandela and other members of the African National Congress have been on the list because of their fight against South Africa's apartheid regime, which gave way to majority rule in 1994.

Apartheid was the nation's system of legalized racial segregation that was enforced by the National Party government between 1948 and 1994.

The bill gives the State Department and the Homeland Security Department the authority to waive restrictions against ANC members.

"He had no place on our government's terror watch list, and I'm pleased to see this bill finally become law," said Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

South Africa's apartheid government had designated the ANC a terrorist organization during the group's decades-long struggle against whites-only rule. Its members have been barred from receiving U.S. visas without special permission, and the bill Bush signed will lift that requirement, State Department spokesman Tom Casey said.

"What it will do is make sure that there aren't any extra hoops for either a distinguished individual, like former President Mandela, or other members of the African National Congress to get a U.S. visa," Casey said.

Mandela shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 with F. W. de Klerk, the South African president and National Party leader who worked with Mandela to end apartheid. Mandela replaced him as president in 1994 and served until 1999.

Recognized as a symbol of freedom and equality, Mandela will turn 90 on July 18. iReport.com: Have you ever met Mandela?

He spent 27 years in prison on charges that included sabotage committed while he spearheaded the struggle against apartheid. He was released in 1990.

The bill is H.R. 5690, which "authorizes the Departments of State and Homeland Security to determine that provisions in the Immigration and Nationality Act that render aliens inadmissible due to terrorist or criminal activities would not apply with respect to activities undertaken in association with the African National Congress in opposition to apartheid rule in South Africa."

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