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Mandela reported in high spirits

The South African icon, 94, remains in a hospital with a variety of ailments.

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Nelson Mandela, who spent Christmas in the hospital recovering from serious illness, was in good spirits and looking much better, President Jacob Zuma said Tuesday.

He said Mandela immediately greeted him, shouting out Zuma's clan name, Nxamalala.

Zuma visited Mandela with Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, and other members of the Mandela family.

"He was happy to have visitors on this special day and is looking much better," Zuma said in a written statement Tuesday.

Mandela, South Africa's first black president, was admitted to the hospital on Dec. 8 for a lung infection, and later had gallstone surgery. South African authorities last week said his condition was serious on admission.

But Zuma said Tuesday that doctors were happy with Mandela's progress.

There is no indication when Mandela might be released from the hospital. It is his longest stint in a hospital since his release from jail almost two decades ago.

When in jail, Mandela contracted tuberculosis and has had lung problems since. In January last year, he suffered an acute respiratory problem.

South African authorities are not disclosing the name of the private hospital where Mandela is being treated or the names of the doctors treating him.

Mandela became president after the country's first democratic elections in 1994 and served one term. In recent years he has retired to Qunu and has rarely been seen in public. His last appearance was in 2010 when South Africa hosted the soccer World Cup.