Page last updated at 14:23 GMT, Wednesday, 3 September 2008 15:23 UK

Levy Mwanawasa buried in Zambia

Levy Mwanawasa's coffin
The copper-plated coffin has been taken around the country

The late Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa has been buried at a sombre ceremony in the capital, Lusaka.

There was a 21-gun salute as his body was lowered into the ground in a copper-plated coffin - Zambia is Africa's biggest copper producer.

Proceedings are being shown on four giant screens in Lusaka, as well as live on national television.

Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe is one of several African leaders present, even though Mr Mwanawasa had criticised him.

On his arrival in Lusaka, Mr Mugabe praised Mr Mwanawasa.

"He was very frank and wanted to change not only his country but the entire southern African region. We will greatly miss him," Mr Mugabe said, according to state radio.

'Orphaned again'

The mourners were led by Mr Mwanawasa's wife, Maureen, and their six children.

She said she felt most sorry for the orphans who Mr Mwanawasa had looked after through his Baptists church.

Robert Mugabe kneeling before Maureen Mwanawasa
Robert Mugabe paid his respects to Maureen Mwanawasa on Tuesday

"He was the father of all. It is the orphans he took care of that bring pain to my throat, they are orphaned again," she said.

Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete - the current African Union chairman - praised him as a "visionary leader", reports the AFP news agency.

The BBC's Musonda Chibamba in Lusaka says ordinary Zambians were told not to attend the ceremony but to watch it instead.

Since being returned to Zambia on 23 August following his death in France, Mr Mwanawasa's body has been taken around the country to let people pay their respects.

He was buried at Embassy Park, near the presidential offices, after a service at a church in the grounds of parliament.

Funeral diplomacy

Tanzania's Foreign Minister Bernard Membe said the African leaders would use the funeral to discuss Zimbabwe's political crisis.

President Kikwete on Tuesday said he would try to revive the deadlocked power-sharing talks between Mr Mugabe and Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Mr Tsvangirai also attended the funeral, along with the leaders of South Africa, Botswana, Malawi and Lesotho.

Zambia's late President, Levy Mwanawasa. Photo: April 2008
Levy Mwanawasa had been in poor health for several years

UK Minister for Africa Lord Malloch Brown and US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer were also present, AFP reports.

As chairman of the regional body, SADC, Mr Mwanawasa had called Zimbabwe's election an "embarrassment". Last year, he said the country was "sinking like the Titanic".

Mr Mwanawasa died at a military hospital in Paris on 19 August, after suffering a stroke at the African Union summit in June. He was 59 and had been in poor health for some time.

He was first elected in 2001, before being returned to power at polls in 2006. He had won praise from the world community for his economic prudence.

At home he will probably be best remembered for stripping his predecessor Frederick Chiluba of immunity from prosecution, the BBC's Jonah Fisher says.

Mr Mwanawasa's critics accused him of persecuting his political rivals under the guise of fighting corruption.

He had been a practising lawyer since 1973.

Under the constitution, elections must be held within 90 days of the president's death.

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