London: Former South African president Nelson Mandela is reported to have picked up the phone and called London to spell out his anger about the decision to join the US-led mission to topple Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein.
The extraordinary call was made to Peter Hain, secretary of state for work and pensions and secretary of Wales, in the Blair Cabinet.
According to The Independent, diplomatic niceties were abandoned as he warned that Britain`s reputation around the world would suffer "huge damage" because of the invasion and that all the Blair administration`s good work in Africa would be forgotten.
Hain, a long-standing friend, discloses details of the call in a new biography of Mandela.
Hain recalled: "He said: `A big mistake, Peter, a very big mistake. It is wrong. Why is Tony doing this after all his support for Africa? This will cause huge damage internationally`."
He said last night that he had never encountered his old friend as angry as he was during that conversation: "He was virtually breathing fire down the phone on this and feeling a sense of betrayal."
He went on: "It wasn`t a pre-planned call that I had been expecting. He was just put through by Downing Street. Because we were friends, he was probably more frank with me than he would have been if he had been speaking with a prime minister or president."