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MANDELA MAKES DISTINCTION TO CUSHION HIS IRA REMARK

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South African nationalist leader Nelson Mandela, explaining he was making a statement of principle and not policy, tried Tuesday to defuse an uproar ignited by his suggestion that London negotiate with the Irish Republican Army.

The deputy president of the African National Congress also began his two-day stay in Britain with a call for South Africa to suffer sanctions until it purges the "poison of racism," a stance staunchly opposed by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whom he meets Wednesday.His first appointments were with legislators and leading black activists before talks with Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd that dealt with their differing positions on sanctions and Mandela's IRA comments made at a news conference in Dublin.

Mandela's suggestion of negotiating with the IRA was firmly rejected by Thatcher and other politicians said the black South African leader was misguided in comparing Irish extremists with other armed groups.

Mandela, in a damage control exercise outside the Foreign Office with Hurd, said he did not think his comment for an end to "mutual slaughter" had been a mistake that was overshadowing his visit.

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Taxpayer bill for tour

Nelson Mandela raised more than $7 million for the African National Congress in his eight-city U.S. tour, and Americans paid millions more involuntarily - in tax dollars for his police protection. While no total for donations was available from national organizers of the 11-day trip that ended Saturday, spokesmen in each city had rough counts as of Monday. Many said money still was coming in. Similarly, no sum of government costs for Mandela's protection was available. In New York City alone, municipal expenses were put at $2.6 million. Another big spender was the U.S. State Department, which oversaw security.