Mandela is a known critic of the US President and no meetings have been fixed between him and Bush.

South African officials on Sunday sought to underplay the significant omission in Bush’s tour itinerary, insisting that “no meetings between the two had ever been on the cards”.

A living legend, Mandela is on the itinerary of all visiting dignitaries.

For Bush, not meeting Mandela could be a way to avoid embarrassment.

Mandela has called Bush a president who “cannot think properly” and this week expressed renewed anti-US  sentiments.

Instead, he praised France for opposing the war on Iraq.

“French President Jacques Chirac took the correct attitude not to support the war. He is in favour of peace,” the Nobel Peace Prize winner said last Friday.

For sure, he wasn’t looking forward to meet Bush.

“Do not assume that he will meet with me. I know he is coming to see President Thabo Mbeki, but I am not sure if he wants to see me,” Mandela said recently on asked about Bush’s visit.

Bush is embarking on a five-day tour of Africa between July 7 and July 12, that will take him through five countries --Senegal,  Botswana, Uganda, Nigeria and South Africa.

South African Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad on Sunday refused to comment on Mandela’s poor opinion on the US President.

“He is one of the world’s greatest statesman. He has been known to say what he thinks…I am not unhappy. Mandela’s statements are his statements. Its his view,”  the minister said.