(CNN) — U.S. President Barack Obama met Saturday with family members of ailing South African statesman Nelson Mandela and spoke by telephone with Mandela’s wife as she maintains a vigil by his bedside.
However, he and first lady Michelle Obama will not visit the anti-apartheid icon at the hospital “out of deference to Nelson Mandela’s peace and comfort, and the family’s wishes,” the White House said.
“I expressed my hope that Madiba draws peace and comfort from the time that he is spending with loved ones, and also expressed my heartfelt support for the entire family as they work through this difficult time,” Obama said after meeting with Mandela family members in Johannesburg. Madiba is Mandela’s clan name.
Those present for the meeting at the Nelson Mandela Foundation included Mandela’s two daughters, Makaziwe and Zindzi, and eight of his grandchildren.
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