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Last Updated: Friday, 12 November, 2004, 11:56 GMT
Arafat's funeral held in Cairo
Yasser Arafat's coffin is carried on a horse-drawn carriage, Cairo, 12 November 2004
World leaders followed Yasser Arafat's coffin in a procession
A military funeral for the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has been held in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

Heads of state, prime ministers and foreign ministers attended a short ceremony at an airbase in Cairo, following funeral prayers at a mosque.

Mr Arafat's widow and young daughter cried as they watched the coffin being carried to a waiting plane.

The coffin is now being flown to the West Bank town of Ramallah for burial before sunset.

The plane was heading to Egypt's Sinai peninsula, where the coffin was to be transferred to a military helicopter.

The funeral comes two weeks after Mr Arafat, 75, was taken to a French military hospital near Paris, suffering from a mystery complaint. He died of multiple organ failure early on Thursday morning.

Vehicles clear earth as they dig Arafat's grave in the Muqata, Ramallah
Thursday: Body flown to Cairo, arrived late at night
Friday morning: Military funeral in Cairo
Friday before sunset: Burial in Ramallah, West Bank

The funeral began with short prayers at a mosque in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis. The coffin was then placed inside a silver hearse and driven to a military club.

Palestinian officials, including Mahmoud Abbas who has taken over leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, greeted dignitaries from around the world in a large, carpeted funeral tent at the club.

The leaders then walked behind Mr Arafat's flag-draped coffin in a short funeral procession, following a horse-drawn gun carriage and a military band down a heavily-guarded street to the nearby al-Maza airbase.

Doors and shutters of homes along the route were kept shut, and the street was closed to the public.

Egypt's top Muslim cleric, Grand Sheik of Al-Azhar Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, led prayers for Mr Arafat.

"He has served his people all his life, until he faced his God, with courage and honesty. Let us pray for his soul," he said.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei - will take charge of the Palestinian Authority
Mahmoud Abbas - the former prime minister will lead the PLO, the umbrella body bringing together most Palestinian factions
Farouk Kaddoumi - will head the Fatah faction

The Palestinian and Egyptian national anthems were played before the coffin was placed on board a military plane.

Egyptian television showed pictures of a veiled Suha Arafat, the Palestinian leader's widow and a rare picture of the couple's nine-year-old daughter Zahwa.

World leaders attending the ceremony - which was closed to the public - included Jordan's King Abdullah II, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and US envoy Williams Burns were also there.

No Israeli officials attended.


Mr Arafat's body is due to be buried before sunset, in the grounds of the Ramallah compound in which he was confined by Israeli forces for more than two-and-a-half years.

People worked through the night to prepare the grave, under some trees, next to the wreckage of destroyed buildings.

The BBC's Martin Asser in Ramallah was told that a former prayer hall of Mr Arafat's - demolished by Israeli forces some time ago - was the site for the burial.

A huge tent has been erected at offices occupied by Mr Arafat before they were destroyed by the Israeli air force in 2002.

Many hundreds of Palestinian dignitaries are expected to watch the burial on a large screen.

Israel is not allowing ordinary Palestinians to travel to the West Bank from the Gaza Strip.

Instead, Gaza City will hold its own symbolic funeral service while the West Bank burial takes place.

The Palestinians see Mr Arafat's burial site as temporary. They hope that one day he will be buried at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem - a move rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Mystery illness

The exact cause of Mr Arafat's illness and death is still not clear. Hospital officials have refused to give details, citing French medical privacy law.

A leading Jordanian doctor, Ashraf al-Kurdi, who regularly examined Mr Arafat, and last saw him two weeks ago, has called for an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.

Yasser Arafat was the embodiment of the Palestinian struggle
Hafeez Anwar, Preston, England

Mr Arafat had been flown to Paris on 29 October after weeks of mystery stomach pains. He fell into a coma on 3 November and never regained consciousness.

Mr Arafat's body was flown out of Paris on Thursday on a French government plane, after being given a high-level send-off at a military base, attended by French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

In Cairo, the coffin, accompanied by Suha Arafat, was met by the Egyptian president's wife Suzanne Mubarak and leading officials and given full military honours.

The Palestinian Authority, as well as camps in Lebanon - home to some 400,000 Palestinian refugees - have declared 40 days of mourning.

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