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Nelson Mandela, symbol of black African liberation, urged the United Nations Friday to maintain sanctions against South Africa until apartheid is abolished. He also warned of danger from armed white racists.

Calling apartheid a "crime against humanity," Mandela said, "We strongly urge that there should be no relaxation of existing measures. The sanctions that have been imposed by the United Nations and by individual governments should remain in place."

In remarks prepared for delivery to the U.N. Committee Against Apartheid, Mandela also issued a warning against white racists among civilians, the army and police in South Africa.

"There are many among our white compatriots who are still committed to the maintenance of the evil system of white minority domination," he said. Some are ideoligically committed to racism, while others fear democratic majority rule, he added.

"Some of these are to be found within the army and the police. Other whites are working at a feverish pace to establish paramilitary groups whose stated aim is the physical liquidation of the African National Congress."

Mandela, deputy president of the ANC, said, "We cannot afford to underestimate the threat that these defenders of a brutal and continuing reality pose to the whole process of working toward a just political settlement."

On Thursday, Mandela made exuberant and emotional appeals to a packed house at Yankee Stadium and to an estimated 100,000 people at a rally in Harlem.

Earlier, the 71-year-old freedom fighter and other participants in an ecumenical service at Harlem's Riverside Church danced jubilantly to the beat of African drummers after the African National Congress choir finished singing its anthem.

The service, with 2,000 guests, brought religious leaders of all faiths together in a call for equality.

Mandela arrived to a standing ovation at the United Nations for what was generally regarded as the most important address of his U.S. tour. The United Nations had demanded for years that he be released from prison, where he spent 27 years for his anti-apartheid struggle before he was set free this year. Several hundred delegates, dignitaries and celebrities cheered for several minutes as Mandela entered the packed hall, waving both hands and smiling. Among the guests invited were New York Mayor David Dinkins, boxer Joe Frazier, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, boxing promoter Don King, boxers Ray Leonard and Mike Tyson and theater director Joseph Papp.

South Africa, a U.N. member, was ousted from the 159-member General Assembly in 1974 and was not represented in the hall. The United States is not a member of the committee, but three top ambassadors were present. The United Nations has for years led the battle against apartheid in the international arena. The 159-nation body has denounced South Africa's system of racial segregation, has called for the establishment of a non-racial democracy and has backed sanctions against South Africa. In his current 14-nation tour, Mandela has been urging that such sanctions be kept in place in order to keep up the pressure on South Africa's government.

United Nations efforts to win Mandela's release date back at least to 1976, when the General Assembly proclaimed an annual day of solidarity with all South African political prisoners.