French flags to fly at half-mast for 'extraordinary' Mandela: PM

French flags to fly at half-mast for 'extraordinary' Mandela: PM
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (C) speaks with members of the French community at the start of his visit Beijing on December 5, 2013.

BEIJING - All French flags will fly at half-mast in tribute to Nelson Mandela, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Friday, praising the late anti-apartheid leader as an "extraordinary man".

"All humanity is in mourning," Ayrault told reporters in Beijing, on the second day of a visit to China.

"France joins in this mourning. She stands alongside the South Africans who are crying today for this great man."

Mandela became a symbol for "all of humanity" added Ayrault. "He leaves us a legacy. We are all responsible for it."

In a statement released earlier, the French head of government said of Mandela: "All his life he fought with courage for justice and against the evil of apartheid.

"It is with respect and humility that I bow to the memory of this extraordinary man, who will long be an inspiration to all of humanity," he said.

The Nobel laureate "governed with wisdom and probity, for togetherness and reconciliation" and had "guided his people towards freedom and dignity", he added.

"His fight against racism and for liberty went beyond borders of his own country and had a universal impact."

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