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Obama extends 'warmest wishes' to Mandela over 95th birthday


11:29, July 18, 2013

WASHINGTON, July 17 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday extended his "warmest wishes and prayers" to Nelson Mandela, as the former South African president will spend his 95th birthday on Thursday in a hospital.

"Our family was deeply moved by our visit to Madiba's former cell on Robben Island during our recent trip to South Africa, and we will forever draw strength and inspiration from his extraordinary example of moral courage, kindness and humility," Obama said in a statement, using Mandela's clan name.

The first black president in U.S. history, Obama had hoped but failed to see Mandela, the first black president in South Africa and his "personal hero," when he visited the country on June 28-30 due to Mandela's hospitalization.

But Obama and his family visited a jail cell on Robben Island where Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years during South Africa's apartheid era.

"On Nelson Mandela International Day, people everywhere have the opportunity to honor Madiba through individual and collective acts of service," Obama said in his statement. Mandela turns 95 on July 18, which is also the Nelson Mandela International Day.

"Through our own lives, by heeding his example, we can honor the man who showed his own people -- and the world -- the path to justice, equality and freedom," he added.

Mandela served as president from 1994 to 1999, and he has been hospitalized since June 8 for a recurring lung infection, his longest hospital stay in years.

The United States joined 192 United Nations member states in the creation of Nelson Mandela International Day in 2009 to mark the former South African president's 67 years of public services.

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