Nelson Mandela's Memorial And The Axis Of Hope For World Leaders

They were once enemies who joined only in their mutual hate, philosophical intolerance and political distrust of one another.

But in a few hours, Nelson Mandela's lasting legacy of peace and reconciliation will be witnessed by the world as some of the most dangerous rivalries are put aside, if just for one day.

American, Iranian and Cuban leaders will join in South Africa to pay tribute to Madiba in front of an 80,000 strong crowd.

Almost 90 world leaders, including three previous British prime ministers, are to join current PM David Cameron at the official memorial ceremony in Johannesburg's FNB stadium.

Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe will also attend the event which is expected to be one of the biggest gatherings of VIPs in recent memory.

United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, Sir Richard Branson and singer Peter Gabriel - who devised "The Elders" forum of statesmen and activists set up by Mr Mandela - are also due to attend.

Nelson Mandela, acknowledging the crowd at a rally in Glasgow after he had earlier received the Freedom of the City

According to The Daily Telegraph countries who have not yet confirmed who will send include Russia, Israel and Libya.

Syria has not been in touch, the paper reported a foreign office spokesman as saying.

Notable absentees include the Dalai Lama who has been denied entry to South Africa on several occasions.

The FNB stadium, in the Johannesburg township of Soweto, was the venue of the anti-apartheid hero's final public appearance at the closing ceremony of the 2010 football World Cup.

Mandela's body will then lie in state at South Africa's seat of government, the Union Buildings in Pretoria, until he is laid to rest in a state funeral at his hometown of Qunu in the Eastern Cape.

The Prince of Wales will be among a smaller number of dignitaries travelling to the remote rural location for that service.

​T​hree former US​ ​presidents - Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W Bush (who first used the Axis of Evil line) - will also be in Johannesburg​ and Reuters reports hotels are struggling to​ cope with the number of ​ Mandela mourners.

"We're fully booked," said an employee of the five-star Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa, which has 54 luxury rooms set in lush gardens.

"We've even had to convert some treatment rooms to cope," reported the news agency.