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Monday, July 26, 1999 Published at 01:31 GMT 02:31 UK

World: Africa

Millions mourn Hassan

The king was laid to rest beside his father in the royal mausoleum

An estimated two million mourners joined leaders from around the world on Sunday at the funeral of King Hassan II in the Moroccan capital, Rabat.

Huge crowds lined the route of the funeral cortege as the body of the late king was taken to his final resting-place in the marble royal mausoleum, next to his father, King Mohammed V.

[ image: President Clinton led world leaders mourning the late king]
President Clinton led world leaders mourning the late king
"Our souls are with you, our love goes with you," the crowd chanted as the coffin slowly made its way through the city.

A number of mourners were overcome with grief and had to be carried to safety over the heads of the crowd.

The prayers were led by King Mohammed VI, who was crowned as the new monarch hours after his father's death.

King Hassan died of a heart attack on Friday. He was the Arab world's longest-serving head of state.

Funeral procession

The BBC's Nick Palham in Rabat: "Many had travelled huge distances on foot"
Earlier, the funeral cortege made its way from the royal palace with the coffin, draped in a green and gold shroud, carried on the back of an army truck.

(Click here to see a map of the funeral route)

It was preceded by palace personnel and a royal carriage drawn by four white horses.

[ image: Thousands of mourners lined the cortege route]
Thousands of mourners lined the cortege route
At one point, thousands of people hoping to join the cortege broke through security barriers, and had to be beaten back by police.

The ceremony ended in silence as the king's coffin was lowered into the ground, with a solitary voice reciting verses from the Koran.

Accompanying the new king, world leaders walked behind the coffin led by US President Bill Clinton and President Chirac of France.

Paul Adams reports: "It was a glittering occasion in keeping with the traditions of a 300 year old dynasty"
King Abdullah of Jordan, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak were also present in recognition of the late king's key role in the Middle East peace process.

Mr Barak took the opportunity to have talks with a number of leaders, including three-way discussions with President Clinton and Mr Arafat.

Historic meeting

He also had an historic meeting with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Algeria is formally at war with Israel and supports the Palestinian struggle for an independent state, with Jerusalem as its capital.

[ image:  ]
Mr Barak's security adviser Danny Yatom told Israeli television the meeting was a "friendly and moving encounter."

Another key player in the Middle East peace process, the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, had a series of meetings at the funeral, including one with Mr Barak.

Syrian President Hafez Assad was reported to have cancelled his visit amid earlier speculation that he too might meet Mr Barak. Instead Vice President Zuheir Masharkah led the Syrian delegation.

The UK was represented by Prince Charles and the Foreign Secretary Robin Cook.

In all, representatives of more than 50 countries came to pay their final respects to the king.

Mourning period

The Muslim tradition, which says that burial should take place within 24 hours of death, was waived to allow so many foreign guests to attend.

Many ordinary Moroccans from across the kingdom travelled through the night to reach the capital in time for the funeral, some walking the 80km from Casablanca.

Hundreds of people maintained a vigil at the palace gates overnight.

On Saturday Morocco began a 40-day period of mourning for the late king.

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