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Former Presidents Bush, Clinton to Attend Mandela Service

Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will be joining President Barack Obama among the dignitaries attending memorial events for former South African leader Nelson Mandela.

Bush and former first lady Laura Bush “have gratefully accepted the President’s 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,” Freddy Ford, a spokesman for the former president, said in an e-mail.

Clinton also plans to attend, spokesman Matt McKenna said. He said in an e-mail that he didn’t have details on how Clinton would travel. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also will attend, her spokesman, Nick Merrill, said in an e-mail.

Former President George H.W. Bush, 89, won’t be able to make the trip, spokesman Jim McGrath said in an e-mail. A spokeswoman for former President Jimmy Carter, also 89, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail.

Mandela, who led South Africa out of the era of apartheid and became country’s first black president in 1994, died Dec. 5 at the age of 95.

Obama spoke by phone today with Mandela’s widow, Graca Machel, to express condolences on behalf of the U.S. and thank her for the late South African leader’s “commitment to a peaceful, fair and loving world,” according to a White House statement.

Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will travel to South Africa next week, though the schedule hasn’t been set, White House press secretary Jay Carney said today.

A memorial service will be held at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Dec. 10. Mandela’s body will lie in state from Dec. 11 to Dec. 13 at the government’s executive headquarters in the Union Buildings in the capital, Pretoria, followed by a state funeral.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joe Sobczyk in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at

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