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Michelle Obama starts South Africa goodwill tour

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Charles Dharapak/AP

(Read caption) As part of her tour of South Africa, US first lady Michelle Obama (second from left) visited the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg, June 21, with her daughters Sasha and Malia, her mother Marian Robinson, and Nelson Mandela's wife Graca Machel.

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US first lady Michelle Obama received a warm welcome on a frigid evening when she arrived last night at a South African air force base in Pretoria. After an 18 hour flight, Mrs. Obama descended from the plane into the cold South African night air to the tarmac to receive flowers and blankets bearing the design of the South African flag from an awaiting South African minister.

The visit comes at a time when the US and South African governments seem to have much to disagree about.

Earlier this year, for instance, South Africa voted as a member of the United Nations Security Council to approve the use of force by NATO to protect civilians in Libya, but later complained that the US and its allies were using that power too liberally to force Muammar Qaddafi from power.

Yet this trip appears to be an attempt to focus on the positives, and to launch what the Washington chattering class calls a “charm offensive.” And South Africans appear to be charmed.

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