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Poland to Bury Its President and First Lady


A state funeral is being held in Poland's southern city of Kraków Sunday for President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria. They were among 96 people killed in a plane crash a week ago. A number of world leaders, including U.S. President Barrack Obama have cancelled plans to attend because of a giant volcanic ash cloud hovering over Europe that is hindering air travel.

Final preparations are made here in Krakow ahead of the arrival of the funeral cortege that will bring the coffins of President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria to a funeral mass in St. Mary's Basilica, whose origins date back to the 13th Century. They will then be interred in historic Wawel Cathedral.

The funeral caps an emotional week of deep mourning and an outpouring of grief across the country. The first couple lay in state in the Presidential Palace in Warsaw since Tuesday and nearly 200,000 people were reporting standing in line, often for many hours, to pay their last respects.

On Saturday tens of thousand attended a memorial service in central Warsaw for the 96 victims of the plane crash.

They were killed a week ago when the plane carrying the presidential delegation crashed as it attempted to land in heavy fog near the western Russian town of Smolensk.

Their names were read out solemnly followed by emotional tributes and a religious service.

The area was filled with people from Warsaw and elsewhere coming to say goodbye.

The tragedy has generally united Poles in their grief. But, not everyone agrees that President Kaczynski should be buried at Wawel Cathedral. Hundreds have demonstrated against the funeral here and tens of thousands are reported to have signed a protest petition. They say while the President's death was a tragedy, he should not be laid to rest in what is the traditional burial site of Polish kings and national heroes.

A number of world leaders were set to attend Sunday's state funeral. But, some, including U.S. President Barrack Obama have already cancelled and others may yet be kept away. A cloud of volcanic ash continues to hover over northern Europe and is moving slowly south. That, say experts, presents a danger to aircraft and airports and air space in much of region have been shut down.

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