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South African president snubs Michelle Obama, but she carries on to Botswana and her safari

June 22, 2011 |  2:56 pm

Michelle Obamas motorcade in Soweto 6-22-11

Well, who wants to meet the president of South Africa anyway?

First Lady Michelle Obama is on a weeklong tour of Africa with her mother, her daughters, a niece and a nephew, billed as part of her ongoing youth outreach efforts.

Obama's first stop was South Africa, where she's been telling young women to combat AIDs and gender violence, visiting museums and reading to youngsters with Sasha and Malia, who have been kept largely out of the official and diplomatic spotlight until this summer vacation opportunity.Michelle Obama talking to young South African women 6-22-11

However, in what is being reported internationally as a clear snub, on her Monday arrival South African President Jacob Zuma sent his minister of prisons to greet the American first lady.

Tuesday, Mrs. Obama was granted a few minutes with one of President Zuma's three wives.

Presidential aides denied any intentional snub. They said the president simply didn't have a moment to spare for Mrs. Obama at any time during her three-day visit and that she had rejected a time today because she was busy.

During Mrs. Obama's trip to Mexico, President Felipe Calderon and his wife held a state dinner in her honor.

Mrs. Obama and her family entourage -- her mother Marian Robinson, her daughters Sasha and Malia, and her niece Leslie Robinson and her nephew Avery Robinson -- did get a brief audience with 92-year-old former president Nelson Mandela and his wife Graca Machel. She is a former first lady of Mozambique.

It is perhaps no coincidence that President Zuma's unavailability is tied to his anger over a public suggestion last week by Secy. of State Hillary Clinton, another former first lady. In a speech Clinton urged African leaders to increase their pressure for the ouster of Libya's Col. Moammar Kadafi.

Zuma told parliament, "We strongly believe that the (UN) resolution is being abused for regime change, political assassinations and foreign military occupation."

From South Africa Mrs. Obama and her family move on to Botswana, where they will participate in a private safari later this week.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Stephane de Sakutin / AFP / Getty Images (Michelle Obama's official motorcade moves through the streets of Soweto, June 22); Alexander Joe / AFP / Getty Images (Obama talks to young South African women, June 22).

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