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Black nationalist Nelson Mandela eventually will be freed from prison, President F.W. de Klerk said Saturday, but he refused to say when.

Meanwhile, police used dogs, whips and batons to break up protest rallies in Durban and Cape Town, witnesses said, while a march to a police station in the rural Orange Free State was allowed.De Klerk returned from a visit to the Ivory Coast, which has demanded that Mandela be released before it agrees to establish diplomatic relations with South Africa.

"As and when it is possible, he will be released. But I am not prepared to speculate on when," de Klerk told a news conference in Yamoussoukro after a day of talks with President Felix Houphouet-Boigny in the Ivory Coast.

Mandela, 71, was convicted of sabotage and subversion in 1964 and is serving a life term. Last year, the African National Congress leader was admitted to a hospital with tuberculosis and later transferred to a home on a prison farm.

De Klerk said he was hopeful that South Africa could establish relations with the Ivory Coast, whose president has praised his reforms.

"I don't think it is a dream. It can become a reality," he said.