Presidential trio to honour Mandela
Published 07/12/2013 | 01:41
Three American presidents will travel to South Africa to attend memorial services for Nelson Mandela.
The White House said President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama would be joined on Air Force One next week by former president George Bush and his wife Laura. A Bush spokesman said the couple "gratefully accepted" the invitation from the Obamas.
Bill Clinton is also travelling to South Africa, along with his wife, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, but it was unclear whether they would also fly on Air Force One.
A memorial service for Mr Mandela, 95 who died on Thursday, will be held on Tuesday at a stadium in Johannesburg, followed by a smaller funeral on December 15 in his home town.
"My whole family will be there," Mr Clinton said. "And we're looking forward to having the chance to say goodbye one last time."
President Obama also invited 89-year-old George Bush senior to travel with him to South Africa, but a spokesman for the former president said he would not be able to make the trip.
Mr Mandela's death has sparked an outpouring of memorials and celebrations of the former prisoner-turned president who led his country out of apartheid rule.
Mr Obama counted himself as one of the countless millions inspired by the South African leader. "Like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set," he said.
For Mr Obama and Mr Bush, the trip to South Africa will mark the second time they have been on the continent together this year.
The two men were in Tanzania at the same time this summer, though on separately planned trips and held a brief event together to honour victims of the 1998 US embassy bombing in Dar es Salaam. Mrs Obama and Mrs Bush also attended an African first ladies' summit during the trip.