Nelson Mandela brought his campaign to end apartheid to the nation's capital yesterday, stepping off a chartered Trump jet on a bright afternoon to whooping cheers and clenched fists raised high in salute.

The South African leader, speaking briefly to reporters at National Airport, thanked the American people for their support of his cause and urged them to keep the pressure on the white minority government that rules his country.

"The people of the United States have been in the forefront of the struggle for the removal of racial oppression in our country," Mandela said. "I come here to put the message that {economic} sanctions must be intensified . . . . We have no doubt that the people of the United States of America will give us such support."

{The Associated Press reported that in a question-and-answer session with journalists from black-owned media organizations, Mandela criticized U.S. aid to noncommunist guerrillas fighting the Marxist government of Angola.

Asserting that the United States and South Africa are the principal countries backing guerrilla fighter Jonas Savimbi, he said, "We strongly condemn that," saying that "independent countries should respect the political sovereignty and territorial integrity of Angola and no assistance should be rendered to Savimbi," according to the Associated Press.

Questions were restricted to those from members of black-owned media, but other reporters were allowed to monitor the session.}

Mandela was welcomed here by a 10-person receiving line that included Del. Walter E. Fauntroy (D-D.C.); D.C. Council Chairman David A. Clarke; Effi Barry, the wife of D.C. Mayor Marion Barry; and TransAfrica Executive Director Randall Robinson.

During his three days here, Mandela, the deputy president of the African National Congress, is scheduled to meet with the government's leading power brokers. He will meet today with President Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker III. Tomorrow he is to address a joint session of Congress.

Mandela's tour organizers stress that Mandela came to the nation's capital -- the third stop on an eight-city tour -- as a working statesman, to find out how the United States is going to help bring about change in South Africa.

In Boston yesterday, Mandela spent the morning in his hotel room while his wife, Winnie, visited family members for about a half-hour in an undisclosed location.

The Trump Shuttle Boeing 727, carrying Mandela's delegation, touched down in Washington at the old Butler Aviation hangar at 3:47 p.m. Mandela, wearing a somber gray suit, paused to raise his hands broadly in response to a burst of cheers, then slowly descended the plane steps.

The 71-year-old leader was followed by Winnie Mandela, who smiled and thrust her fist high as supporters chanted "Nelson Mandela" and "Viva Mandela" in sing-song voices. Some rocked in the traditional African toi-toi dance that has become a signature ritual during Mandela's time in this country.

Mandela walked over to greet about 40 well-wishers waiting on the tarmac. The group included African National Congress supporters, who chanted his name and waved red, black and gold ANC flags, and most of the members of the D.C. Council.

The excitement of Mandela's visit was evident in the faces and the emotions of the people who greeted him at the airport and later at the Madison Hotel in Northwest Washington, where he is staying. They brought posters, placards, video recorders and their patience. Some had waited for hours. Some journalists, taking time from their professional work, whipped out their own cameras for souvenir photographs of one of the world's most celebrated former political prisoners.

"No words can explain how happy I am," said Tebogo Mogajane, a 23-year-old student at Georgetown University and one of the group of supporters at the airport. "I never thought I would live to see him come from that prison."

At the hotel yesterday afternoon, Mandela met with about 50 members of black-owned news organizations.

The session was to make up for an earlier meeting in New York that was canceled because Mandela was tired.

Asked by one questioner about the grueling national tour and the effect on his health, Mandela responded, "Arrange a ball and take me on."

Mandela thanked the black journalists for their coverage of the anti-apartheid movement and urged them to continue their support by "getting the mass of people and the progressive media to regard sanctions as of importance. Continue to put pressure on the government and Congress. Apartheid is still alive."

Mandela also asked the audience for financial support for the ANC. "We are now rebuilding the ANC," Mandela said. "We are rallying the entire country around peace. We will need enormous resources . . . and we ask you to take part in the effort to raise funds."

Responding to a question about racial polarization in the United States, Mandela said, "We have made it clear that we condemn racism wherever it takes place. It is an evil to be fought and removed."

When asked if he would support demands for reparations for the enslavement of black Americans, Mandela said, "If a majority opinion of black leaders are for reparations, we are prepared to be guided by that and to support that."

Mandela later met with members of the African diplomatic corps.

The media was barred from Mandela's meeting yesterday with about 200 South African exiles.

Two hours after the Mandelas' arrival at the hotel, Winnie Mandela suddenly walked through the front doors, looking refreshed. Some had feared she was too tired to make her scheduled appearance at Metropolitan AME Church on M Street NW.

Escorted by a contingent of police officers, she strode across 15th Street NW to the church one block away. She smiled and saluted often to the hundreds of people who still gathered, many of whom ran along the street, shouting, "Viva Mandela."

Staff writers Marcia Slacum Green, Linda Wheeler, Lynne Duke, Al Kamen and Retha Hill contributed to this report.