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South Africa’s last apartheid president diagnosed with cancer

South Africa’s last white president Frederik de Klerk has cancer, but is in “no immediate threat”, his foundation said late Thursday.

De Klerk, who turned 85 on Thursday, spelt the end of the racist apartheid regime in 1990 when he lifted the ban on black liberation movements and ordered the release of Nelson Mandela from 27 years in jail.

His foundation announced that he will begin treatment next week for mesothelioma, a cancer which affects the tissue lining the lungs.

“There is no immediate threat and we are confident that the treatment will be successful,” the FW de Klerk Foundation said in a statement.

In 1993 De Klerk and Mandela jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize for their roles in South Africa’s “miracle” transition to democracy.

He retired from active politics in September 1997.