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Nelson Mandela stable, July 18 birthday plans go ahead

By GABRIELLE LEVY, UPI.com   |   July 1, 2013 at 1:22 PM   |   Comments

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July 1 (UPI) -- The eyes of the world are turned toward a hospital in Pretoria, South Africa, where former President Nelson Mandela has fought a recurring lung infection since June 8.

When the 94-year-old leader was described as in critical condition last week, the world prepared to lose one of the preeminent living statesmen.

But as his condition remained stable, if still critical, South Africa began to hope he would yet live.

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma told the nation to go ahead with planning celebrations for Mandela Day, celebrated each year on his birthday, July 18. This year, he will turn 95.

"We must all be able to do something good for humanity on this day, in tribute to our former president,'' Zuma said.

President Obama, while in South Africa over the weekend, met with Mandela's family and offered words of praise for the elderly leader.

Mandela, who spent 27 in prison, has a history of lung problems that traces back to a tuberculosis infection from 1980, while he was imprisoned on Robben Island.

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