Obamas, Bushes to head to South Africa for Mandela memorial

Obamas, Bushes to head to South Africa for Mandela memorial

WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle will travel to South Africa next week to pay their respects to the late Nelson Mandela together with former first couple George W. and Laura Bush. Ex-president Bill Clinton also announced that he would be making the trip with his family.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the Obamas would "participate in memorial events" for the iconic leader who died Thursday at age 95.

Carney declined to provide more details on the trip, saying more information would be provided once it becomes available.

South African President Jacob Zuma said a national ceremony in Mandela's memory would be held Tuesday in the Soweto stadium.

His body will then lie in state in Pretoria for three days before he receives a state burial on December 15 in his boyhood home of Qunu.

The Bushes will be making the trip together with the Obamas on the presidential plane at the current first couple's request, according to Freddy Ford, a spokesman for the 43rd president.

"President and Mrs George W. Bush have gratefully accepted the President and Mrs Obama's invitation to accompany them to South Africa on Air Force One and attend president Nelson Mandela's memorial services next week," he said.

The White House invitation was also extended to former president George H.W. Bush but the 89-year-old declined since he can no longer travel long distances, said his spokesman Jim McGrath.

"But he will be there in spirit, of course," McGrath told AFP.

Clinton confirmed that he, too, was headed to South Africa.

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