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Last Updated: Friday, 11 June, 2004, 01:28 GMT 02:28 UK
Reagan lies in state at Capitol
Nancy Reagan places her hand on her husband's coffin as it lies in the Capitol, 9 June 2004
Reagan's widow Nancy has attracted widespread praise
Thousands of people have been filing past the coffin of former US President Ronald Reagan, whose body is lying in state at the US Capitol in Washington.

President Bush and his wife Laura came to the rotunda of the Capitol to pay their respects.

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev also came and touched the coffin of his Cold War adversary.

Ronald Reagan died at his California home on Sunday, aged 93, and his body will return there for burial on Friday.

Up to 5,000 people an hour have been passing through the rotunda, and police estimate that during the 34-hour lying in state some 150,000 will attend.

FUNERAL SCHEDULE
Thursday - Lying in state continues all day and night
0700 Friday - Public viewing ends
1030 Friday - Departure from Capitol
1130 Friday - Funeral service at National Cathedral
1345 Friday - Motorcade leaves cathedral
1425 Friday - Departure from Andrews Air Force base
2115 Friday - Private burial in Simi Valley
All times US Eastern Daylight-Saving Time, four hours behind GMT

Many people waited up to seven hours in stifling heat to pay tribute to Ronald Reagan.

The US will observe a national day of mourning for the former president on Friday, with most government departments and financial markets closing as a mark of respect.

A national funeral will be held at the National Cathedral on Friday, attended by leaders from around the world.

After the service, Reagan's body will be returned to his home state of California for a private sunset burial at his Simi Valley presidential library.

Earlier this week, an estimated 100,000 people passed by the coffin as it lay in state at the library.

A short funeral service was held at the Capitol when Reagan's body arrived on Wednesday evening.

Among the mourners was former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who formed a close political and personal relationship with Reagan during the 1980s.

In a eulogy, US Vice-President Dick Cheney said Ronald Reagan had come to the aid of his country after the turmoil of the 1960s and 1970s.

Ronald Reagan's coffin lies in state in the US Capitol

"Fellow Americans, here lies a graceful and gallant man," he said.

Reagan's 1981-89 White House tenure was marked by the Cold War climax and the beginning of the end of Soviet communism.

Earlier Reagan's widow, Nancy, had accompanied the coffin from California on the presidential plane Air Force One. Along the line of the procession in Washington, she acknowledged public applause, waving to the crowd.

A horse-drawn carriage led his coffin from Andrews Air Force Base to the Capitol, followed by a riderless horse, with boots reversed in the stirrups - symbolic of a fallen leader.

Public tributes

In the Capitol's rotunda, Mrs Reagan, 82, patted and stroked the flag-draped coffin.

There has been a great deal of public praise for Mrs Reagan who nursed her husband through his 10-year struggle with Alzheimer's.

Americans remember Ronald Reagan as memorials begin in Washington

"That loving and caring relationship is an example to all of us," one of the women queuing for the public viewing told the BBC.

Among the first members of the public to view the coffin was Derace Owens from Texas.

"I said in my heart, thank you Lord for giving us Ronald Reagan," he told the Associated Press.

Security surrounding the week's events is extremely tight.

Shortly before the arrival of the coffin in Washington, the Capitol was briefly evacuated when a plane entered restricted airspace. But the authorities quickly determined there was no threat.

Washington has not staged an event on this scale since the funeral of President Lyndon Johnson in 1973.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Daniel Lak
"It was a final opportunity for ordinary Americans to view the coffin"



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