UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council on Friday mourned the death of Nelson Mandela, saying the South African leader was a “giant for justice” and a human inspiration who made great personal sacrifices in his lifelong fight against racial oppression.

“Nelson Mandela was a singular figure on the global stage -- a man of quiet dignity and towering achievement, a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration. I am profoundly saddened by his passing,” Mr. Ban said in his condolence message.

“On behalf of the United Nations, I extend my deepest condolences to the people of South Africa and especially to Nelson Mandela’s family and loved ones,” he said.

Mr. Ban said Mandela “devoted his life to the service of his people and humanity and he did so at great personal sacrifice. His principled stance and the moral force that underpinned it were decisive in dismantling the system of apartheid.”

In a press statement, the 15-nation Security Council paid tribute to Mandela, saying he was an inspirational leader who transformed the lives of millions of people around the world.

“The Members of the Security Council express their deepest admiration for the outstanding qualities of moral and political leadership displayed by Nelson Mandela throughout his lifetime. His lifelong fight against racial oppression and his decisive role in shaping the peaceful transition to a united and democratic South Africa are a lasting legacy to his country and to the world,” said French Ambassador Gerard Araud, the President of the Security Council.

The death of the 95-year old Nobel Peace Prize laureate was on Friday announced by South African President Jacob Zuma.

Mr. Ban said it was remarkable that Mandela emerged from 27 years of detention “without rancor” and was determined to build a new South Africa based on dialogue and understanding.

“When I thanked him for his life’s work, he insisted the credit belonged to others. He said it is not only me -- there are hundreds and hundreds of known, unknown people, who have contributed to the ending of apartheid. Nelson Mandela showed what is possible for our world and within each one of us -- if we believe, dream and work together,” Mr. Ban told reporters here.

Ban said many around the world were greatly influenced by Mandela’s selfless struggle for human dignity, equality and freedom, adding that Mandela personified human decency and humility.

The UN General Assembly had declared his birthday on July 18 as ‘Nelson Mandela International Day’, the first ever international day in honour of an individual.

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