By Justin Sink
President Obama told reporters aboard Air Force One on Friday that he doesn't yet know if he will try to visit anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, who is fighting for his life in a South African hospital, once he lands in the country.
"I don't need a photo-op and the last thing I want to do is to be in any way obtrusive at a time when the family is concerned with Nelson Mandela's condition," Obama continued.
"I think the main message we'll want to deliver, if not directly to him, but to his family, is simply profound gratitude for his leadership."
On Thursday, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters the president would do "whatever Mandela family deems appropriate."
Rhodes added there had not yet been any scheduling changes to Obama's itinerary, which includes a stop at Robben Island, the prison where the former president and other political prisoners were held.
Obama had initially hoped to meet with Mandela during the eight-day swing through Africa, but those plans were scuttled after Mandela entered the hospital earlier this month with a respiratory infection.
On Wednesday, CNN reported that Mandela had been put on life support.
Earlier Thursday, the president called Mandela “my personal hero” and said the former South African president's legacy “will linger on throughout the ages.”