updated 6/1/2004 8:11:44 AM ET 2004-06-01T12:11:44

Former South Africa President Nelson Mandela said Tuesday he will cut down on his public appearances so he can spend more time with his friends and family while his health is still good.

Mandela, 85, has kept a hectic schedule since he stepped down from the presidency five years ago. He helped try to negotiate an end to fighting in Burundi, made numerous charitable appearances and most recently took part in the successful bid to bring the 2010 soccer World Cup to South Africa.

“I’m turning 86 in a few weeks time and that is a longer life than most people are granted,” Mandela said. “I am confidant that nobody here present today will accuse me of selfishness if I asked to spend time while I’m still in good health with my family, my friends and also with myself.”

The former president, who has looked frail in recent appearances, said he will still make public appearances but wants to be more picky.

“Don’t call me, I’ll call you,” he joked.

Mandela made the announcement at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in front of the staff, the staff of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Foundation, the Mandela Rhodes Foundation, ruling party stalwarts, politicians and friends.

The former president, Nobel Laureate and hero of the anti-apartheid struggle insisted that his health was good for his age and joked with the nearly 200 people there about media speculation that his health is failing.

Mandela said he also wants more time to work on the second volume of his memoirs. He has finished about a third of the book.

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