Friday, November 12, 2004

Pres. Arafat no more.

from CNN logs...
Leaders gather in Egypt for Arafat's funeral
Palestinian leader to be buried in West Bank
CAIRO, Egypt Nov12th2004 -- World leaders are gathering in Egypt for Yasser Arafat's funeral on Friday, a day after the Palestinian leader died of a lengthy and unknown illness at a Paris hospital.

Yasser Arafat

A military funeral is scheduled to take place near Cairo's airport at 11 a.m. (4 a.m. ET), amid three days of official mourning in Egypt, according to a spokesman for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Arafat was born in Cairo in 1929.

Arafat's body is then expected to be taken for burial Friday to the West Bank city of Ramallah aboard an Egyptian military helicopter, the spokesman said.

On Thursday, Arafat's body was flown from a French military air base to Cairo. One of the first people off the plane was his widow, Suha Tawil.

She was dressed in all black and made her way slowly down a red carpet accompanied by other relatives. She wept as her late husband's body was brought off the plane and a military band played a solemn tune.

Eight soldiers marched slowly carrying Arafat's coffin, draped in a Palestinian flag, to a nearby hearse, while three other soldiers bearing swords led the group.

News of the Cairo memorial service prompted national leaders and representatives from around the world to travel to Egypt.

The 75-year-old Arafat had spent his life seeking a homeland for his people but was seen by Israelis as a terrorist and roadblock to peace.

"The last two days were very painful, very difficult days," said Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, who confirmed Arafat's death Thursday morning. "And now, after these painful days of President Arafat, he is dead."

Arafat died at 3:30 a.m. (9:30 p.m. Wednesday ET), days after suffering a brain hemorrhage and coma. He was admitted to the hospital October 29 with a blood ailment and digestive problems that were never clearly described.

As word spread of Arafat's death, Palestinians gathered in the streets in the West Bank and Gaza and at his former headquarters in Ramallah.

Although his death leaves no clear successor in the often fractious world of Palestinian politics, Palestinian parliament speaker Rawhi Fattuh has been sworn in as interim president of the Palestinian Authority.

Fattuh praised Arafat's leadership, calling him "a man of peace," and promised to follow in his footsteps.

Elections to find a permanent replacement for Arafat are set to take place within 60 days.

During Arafat's illness, Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei was in charge of the Palestinian Authority, while Mahmoud Abbas led the Palestine Liberation Organization's executive committee.

Early Thursday, the PLO's executive committee unanimously approved Abbas, a former Palestinian prime minister, to replace Arafat as PLO chairman. Arafat's burial in Ramallah is scheduled to take place between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Friday. Ikrima Sabri -- the mufti, or head Muslim cleric, of Jerusalem -- will bring soil from Jerusalem with him as a ceremonial honor for Arafat, who had hoped to be buried in Jerusalem but was denied that by Israel.

Israel agreed to allow his interment at the Ramallah compound, where he had been confined for nearly three years before falling ill.

Israel has ordered a general closure of the West Bank and Gaza, according to the Israel Defense Forces, as the region prepares for the burial.

more...

--g//

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