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Funeral Services Held for Yasser Arafat in Cairo


Funeral services for the former head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Yasser Arafat, were conducted Friday morning in Cairo, Egypt, where dozens of dignitaries gathered to pay their final respects.

With dignitaries and heads of state from around the world gathered, the Grand Sheik of Al-Azhar, Mohammed Sayed Tanatawi conducted funeral services for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Sheik Tantawi said Mr. Arafat had served his people all of his life, until he faced God with courage and honesty. The sheik asked God to forgive all of Mr. Arafat's sins and to make a place for him in heaven.

The funeral prayer, conducted in a mosque at the compound of a private club for Egyptian military officers, lasted only a few minutes. And, just as they had carried the coffin containing the former Palestinian leader into the mosque, eight Egyptian presidential honor guards carried the casket out of the mosque and placed it in a silver hearse.

In a nearby tent, with verses of the Koran being read, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak greeted mourners, including the newly chosen leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Mahmoud Abbas and Farouk Kaddoumi, named the new leader of the Mr. Arafat's Fatah Oraganization.

Other dignitaries included the presidents of Syria, Lebanon, Sudan, Tunisia, Yemen, Algeria and Indonesia. U.S. special envoy William Burns attended the funeral, as did Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.

Mr. Arafat's coffin, draped in a Palestinian flag, was removed from the hearse and placed on a horse-drawn caisson.

And, in a slow procession to a nearby military airport, hundreds of mourners walked behind the coffin as an honor band played military music.

Security in Cairo was very tight. Thousands of police and military personnel lined the route of the funeral procession. The public and most media were kept away.

Funeral services were planned for Cairo primarily for security reasons and because Mr. Arafat was born in Cairo. The former head of the PLO went to school in the Egyptian capital and began his political activism here.

However, Mr. Arafat had falling out with Egypt when President Anwar Sadat signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. Later, Mr. Arafat led a successful campaign to expel Egypt from the 22-member Arab League. But Mr. Arafat himself eventually publicly pronounced Israel's right to exist and was able to mend his differences with President Mubarak, who has been a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause.

With the Egyptian national anthem playing, Mr. Arafat's coffin, accompanied by his tearful widow, Suha, and their daughter, was placed on a plane that took the father of the Palestinian movement to Ramallah for burial.