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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Spice Girls would love to perform for former South African President Nelson Mandela, but said on Monday they had not yet been formally asked to be part of his planned 90th birthday celebrations in June.
During a backstage interview with Reuters before the group's sold-out New York concert, the five members of the British pop group -- Geri Halliwell, Victoria Beckham, Melanie Brown, Melanie Chisholm and Emma Bunton -- were enthusiastic about the idea.
Britain's Daily Mirror reported last week that Mandela was eager for the Spice Girls, who reunited late last year for a greatest hits album and world tour, to perform at a planned concert in London's Hyde Park.
"We're great friends of Mr. Mandela and we would love to perform for him again," said Chisholm, a.k.a. Sporty Spice.
The Spice Girls met Mandela in 1997 when the then-president invited them to his Pretoria residence for a chat and photos. They were in South Africa to perform in a Johannesburg charity concert.
The pop stars reportedly had to turn down an invitation to perform at Mandela's 89th birthday celebrations last year as Bunton was heavily pregnant with her first child.
"We were privileged enough to meet the man and he is just amazing," said Halliwell, a.k.a. Ginger Spice. "He's just an example of strength and humility and if we could be part of that, celebrating his life -- wow."
The Spice Girls were one of the biggest pop acts of the 1990s, selling 35 million albums worldwide with such catchy hits as "Wannabe" and "Say You'll Be There."
Nearly a decade after the five-member group became four -- when Halliwell left -- and seven years since the release of their third and supposedly final album, the Spice Girls returned in December.
Despite extending their tour for a month, the Spice Girls canceled plans for performances in several countries, including Australia, South Africa and China, blaming "family and personal commitments." They plan to finish their tour in Toronto on February 26.
"We have seen as many fans as we can, but we have never said anything other than our families are our priority and we all have children who need to go back to school," said Beckham, a.k.a. Posh, who has three sons with soccer star David Beckham.
"We're mothers -- that's our priority at the end of the day," she said. Brown, a.k.a. Scary, has two daughters, one with actor Eddie Murphy, while Bunton, a.k.a. Baby, has one son and Halliwell has a daughter.
But they have left the door open for future concerts.
"You can never say never because if you had asked me 10 years ago whether there was going to be a Spice Girl reunion, I would have said, 'No way,"' said Halliwell. "We might say no, it's never going to happen again, but you just never know."
(Additional reporting by Sharon Reich)
Editing by Peter Cooney