UNITED STATES
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Barack Obama

Chance encounter for Obama, Bush in Dar es Salaam

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 July, 2013, 3:45am

Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican predecessor George W. Bush found common ground in Africa yesterday, honouring the victims of a terrorist attack in an unprecedented chance encounter a world away from home.

The US presidents had a brief, silent appearance together at a monument to victims of the 1998 embassy bombing in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where both coincidentally happened to be at the same time.

While the two did not speak or interact, their wives held a warm and chatty joint appearance at a summit on African women.

Initially the two presidents were not even planning to meet while in town, but first lady Michelle Obama joked as she sat next to her predecessor, "They're learning from us."

The Obamas were in Dar es Salaam on the last day of a weeklong tour of Africa, while the Bushes were hosting the summit promoting the role of African first ladies in bringing change to their countries.

Bush ended up joining the current president for the wreath-laying ceremony honouring the Tanzanian victims of the simultaneous attacks at the US embassies in Dar es Salaam and in Kenya masterminded by Osama bin Laden.

They shook hands with survivors of the attack and relatives of those killed before walking back into the embassy together after a few minutes.

Obama has spent his tenure winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and reacting to an economic downturn that Democrats blame on Bush's policies. Republicans in turn say Obama's actions have been bad for growth.

But on his three-nation African tour, Obama offered praise for the former president and described Bush's programme to battle HIV/Aids on the continent as a "crowning achievement".

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse