Page last updated at 22:49 GMT, Saturday, 17 April 2010 23:49 UK

Ash cloud prevents leaders attending Polish funeral

The casket of late Polish President Lech Kaczynski is taken to St John's cathedral in Warsaw on 17 April
A state funeral for the late Lech Kaczynski is to be held on Sunday

US President Barack Obama will not attend Lech Kaczynski's state funeral on Sunday because of the travel chaos across Europe, the White House says.

Other figures unable to attend include the UK's Prince of Wales, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Most of Europe's major airports remain closed because of a volcanic ash cloud.

Thousands of mourners in Warsaw were at an evening Mass for Mr Kacyznski who died with 95 others in an air crash.

His coffin, with that of his wife, has been taken to the city's cathedral, where it will remain overnight before being flown on Sunday to the historic city of Krakow for the state funeral.


Not attending: US President Barack Obama; French President Nicolas Sarkozy; German Chancellor Angela Merkel; the UK's Prince of Wales and Foreign Secretary David Miliband; Spanish King Juan Carlos and PM Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero; Turkish President Abdullah Gul; Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf and Foreign Minister Carl Bildt; Finnish President Tarja Halonen; South Korean PM Chung Un-Chan; Canadian PM Stephen Harper; Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson

Attending:Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (final decision expected shortly); Czech President Vaclav Klaus; Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic; Slovenian President Danilo Turk; Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych; Latvian President Valdis Zatlers; Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Andrus Ansip; Romanian President Traian Basescu; Hungarian President Lazslo Solyom and PM Gordon Bajnai

The Polish government airliner crashed in western Russia on 10 April. Investigator believe pilot error caused the plane to hit tree-tops in heavy fog in the Smolensk region, where the Polish delegation had meant to attend a memorial for Poles massacred by Stalin's secret police at Katyn in World War II.

Earlier on Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people took part in an open-air memorial service in the centre of Warsaw.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was due to fly back to Germany from a visit to the US on Friday and had planned to attend the funeral, had to fly to Lisbon instead where she spent the night.

With all German airports still closed, she flew on to Italy on Saturday and continued her journey home by road.

A number of eastern European leaders have said they will attend by driving to Krakow.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is expected to make a final decision on Sunday morning about whether he can fly to Poland, his office said.

All airports in Poland remain closed on Saturday, including Balice in Krakow where most of the dignitaries were to arrive on Sunday.

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