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South African President Launches Re-Election Bid - 2004-01-11

South African President Thabo Mbeki has launched his party's re-election campaign, vowing to reduce poverty and massive unemployment.

Speaking at a rally Sunday, Mr. Mbeki said the African National Congress has done many things to reduce poverty's impact, but now has to ensure that people can find jobs.

Saturday, the ANC unveiled its election manifesto, pledging to spend $15 billion over the next 10 years to improve roads, railways, air transport, and telecommunications.

The party has ruled South Africa since the end of apartheid and white minority rule in 1994.

Opposition groups have criticized the ANC for not doing enough to fight unemployment, which now stands at over 30 percent.

About 40,000 people attended the ANC rally Sunday in the eastern city of Pietermaritzburg.

Mr. Mbeki is running for a second term as president. He was first elected in 1999, succeeding South Africa's first black president, Nelson Mandela.

Reuters news agency reports that Mr. Mandela was expected to attend Sunday's rally, but did not appear. Party officials gave no reason for the Nobel laureate's absence.