After handshake with Obama, Raul Castro praises Nelson Mandela's support of Cuba
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12/10/13 AP
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U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Cuba's President Raul Castro at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela.


photo by BBC Mundo broadcast on YouTube (screen grab).

President Barack Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro today at a memorial service for Nelson Mandela, it was a simple gesture that signaled possible thawing between the leaders of two Cold War foes. Despite a steady rain, the mood at a soccer stadium in Johannesburg was one of celebration. Nearly 100 heads of state and government were among the tens of thousands who gathered to remember Mandela, who died last week at the age of 95. Obama received thunderous applause for a speech in which he urged the world to embrace Mandela's universal message of peace and justice.

Obama adviser Ben Rhodes said the handshakes with Castro and other world leaders weren't planned in advance and didn't involve any substantive discussion. Still, more than half a century after the U.S. cut off diplomatic relations with Cuba, such exchanges between American and Cuban leaders are exceedingly rare. In his tribute, which was translated into English, Raul Castro remembered Mandela

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