Maya Angelou, who first met Nelson Mandela in the early 1960s, praised him as a great man worthy of comparison to another icon she knew _ the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

    ``Our planet has lost a friend,'' Angelou said Friday during a telephone interview with The Associated Press. She was living in Egypt with a South African activist when Mandela visited them. She remembered him as handsome and funny and unusually generous with compliments, able to get along with the varying groups of political opponents to South Africa's apartheid regime. He was imprisoned in 1964, but their friendship resumed in the 1990s after his release.

    Angelou learned of Mandela's death Thursday just hours after she heard of another friend's passing. ``This is a very heavy time,'' she said sadly.

    Meanwhile, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is remembering Mandela as a ``giant among us'' who showed the world how to respond to injustice and tragedy. Mrs. Clinton says Mandela understood the importance of bringing democracy and freedom to South Africa and showed others how to live a life of integrity.  (Associated Press)

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