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White House Planning Obamas' Travel to South Africa

President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about the death of Nelson Mandela in the briefing room of the White House, Dec. 5, 2013.
President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will travel to South Africa next week to attend the funeral of Nelson Mandela.

At President Obama's direction, flags at the White House, U.S. Capitol, public buildings, diplomatic facilities and military posts are flying at half-staff until sundown on Monday to honor Nelson Mandela.

Obama's spokesman Jay Carney said Friday the president and first lady will travel to South Africa next week to pay their respects. Details of the trip were not released.

Carney recalled President Obama's remarks Thursday about Nelson Mandela's impact on the president's life, although the two men only met once.

"Nelson Mandela had a profound impact on millions and millions of people around the world, beginning with the citizens of South Africa, millions and millions of people who never met him, and the president as senator had the good fortune to meet him. But I don't think that's the reason why he had an influence on Barack Obama. That influence, as he said yesterday, extends well back in time," said Carney.

Carney could also not say whether Obama will invite former U.S. presidents to accompany him to South Africa.

It has been common practice for sitting presidents to invite predecessors, former U.S. officials and other dignitaries to travel aboard Air Force One to attend funerals of major world leaders.