Obama extends warmest wishes to Mandela on 95th birthday

Washington, July 18 (IANS) US President Barack Obama has extended his "warmest wishes and prayers" to Nelson Mandela, as the former South African president will spend his 95th birthday 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 Wednesday, using Mandela's clan name.

The first black president in US 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 June 28-30 due to Mandela's hospitalization, reported Xinhua.

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 honour Madiba through individual and collective acts of service," Obama said in his statement.

Mandela turns 95 July 18, which is also the Nelson Mandela International Day.

"Through our own lives, by heeding his example, we can honour 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.

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