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Monday, July 26, 1999 Published at 19:16 GMT 20:16 UK

World: Africa

Rabat reopens after king's funeral

The Clinton family greet Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat

Public offices have reopened and commercial activity resumed in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, after two days of mourning for the late King Hassan, who died on Friday.

World leaders who attended the king's funeral on Sunday used the occasion for an intensive round of meetings centred on pushing forward the Middle East peace process.

President Clinton, the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat met for three-way discussions that American officials said were brief but animated.

Palestinian officials said Mr Arafat and Mr Barak will meet again on Tuesday to discuss Israeli implementation of existing peace accords.

UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook had meetings with the Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian leaders.

[ image: The new Israeli Prime Minister was building diplomatic bridges]
The new Israeli Prime Minister was building diplomatic bridges
"The talks demonstrated all players' hope, enthusiasm and commitment for the peace process, while all recognised that there were serious negotiations to come," a Foreign Office spokesman said.

Contrary to Israeli predictions, there was no encounter between Mr Barak and the Syrian President, Hafez al-Assad, because Mr Assad stayed at home.

Landmark meetings

There were other diplomatic landmarks. The new President of Algeria, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, shook hands with Mr Barak - a first for a country officially still at war with Israel.

[ image: President Mubarak: A key player in the peace process]
President Mubarak: A key player in the peace process
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.

President Bouteflika, for his part, took the opportunity to hold talks with Morocco's new King Muhammad after the funeral - moving swiftly to improve relations between the two countries, officials said.

The Algerian leader was accompanied by a high-level delegation, including his Prime Minister Smail Hamdani, underlining the importance he attached to the occasion.

US President Clinton stayed in Rabat well after nightfall, to meet various leaders from the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

But by Monday, most of the presidents, prime ministers and kings had left Morocco, leaving behind pledges of support for the new king.

Frenzied scenes

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

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

There were frenzied scenes of mourning by some of the 2m people estimated to have come to catch a glimpse of the king's coffin.

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.

Government sources said on Sunday that King Muhammad VI, as he will be styled, got married in a quiet ceremony on the day his father died.

"According to Moroccan tradition, the crown prince must be married so that he can ascend the throne," a source told the Reuters news agency.

Other reports said the Palace denied the wedding took place.

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