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Sunday, February 7, 1999 Published at 23:34 GMT

World: Middle East

Region's grief for 'brother'

Israelis watch as news of the death is broadcast

A number Middle Eastern states have announced official periods of mourning for King Hussein of Jordan.

Jordan's sorrow
The 63-year-old leader died on Sunday after a lengthy battle against cancer. The whole region has expressed deep sadness at the loss.

The king's special place in Middle East politics was marked by the speed with which Israel paid tribute to its "most popular foreign leader".

[ image: Yasser Arafat:
Yasser Arafat: "Great sorrow and pain"
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the Egyptian president also gave their respects.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sent his country's condolences to the king's family and the Jordanian people.

He sent good wishes to the king's son and successor, King Abdullah, before making a personal tribute.

"With great sadness we bid farewell to you, king and friend.

"The peace between our peoples will be a testament to your abiding belief in a lasting peace between the sons of Abraham.

"Rest in peace, your majesty."

[ image: Binyamin Netanyahu: Bid farewell to
Binyamin Netanyahu: Bid farewell to "friend and king"
Mr Netanyahu earlier held a special cabinet meeting, which began with a minute's silence, before arrangements for mourning, and political implications were discussed.

Israeli Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon expressed confidence that King Abdullah "will continue to be a stabilising factor in the region".

Earlier Mr Netanyahu denied he was not wanted at Monday's funeral because of the king's criticism of his stance towards the Middle East peace process.

He said the Jordanian Government had contacted Israel to insist he was welcome.

Arab world's grief

The Palestinian Authority paid its tribute to King Hussein, saying he had worked for the Palestinian people.

"President Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian people and leadership have received with great sorrow and pain the news," it said in a statement.

It hailed King Hussein as a "great statesman and leader" who had served the Palestinian cause with "much of his time and energy".

Mr Arafat will lead a delegation of Palestinian officials to the funeral.

A large crowd gathered outside the Jordanian mission in Gaza City to pay its respects.

[ image: Hosni Mubarak:
Hosni Mubarak: "Generous brother and dear friend"
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak sent condolences to King Abdullah. The government declared three days of mourning.

"He was a generous brother and a dear friend," said a statement.

"Flags will be at half-mast in all public buildings and Egyptian embassies," a presidential spokesman said.

Kuwait expressed sympathy at the death of the "great leader" and declared two days of mourning.

Relations between Jordan and Kuwait are believed to be improving following the damaged caused by King Hussein's support for Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War.

The United Arab Emirates declared a 40-day period of mourning, with government offices closed for three days.

Meanwhile the Sultan of Oman "received with great sadness the news" and described the king as "a brother and a friend"

'Fatherly figure' - Peres

Leaders from across Israel's political spectrum are due to attend the funeral, from former right-wing prime minister Yitzhak Shamir to Shimon Peres, former Labour leader and architect of the peace process.

Former Israeli leader Shimon Peres pays tribute
Mr Peres said: "It's not just the passing of a great leader and an important personality, but the passing of an authority."

He believed the king was a "fatherly figure" to many Israelis as well as Jordanians.

"His eloquence, his warmth conquered the hearts of many people," he told the BBC.

[ image:  ]
Israeli President Ezer Weizman will also attend the funeral.

A tearful Leah Rabin, widow of the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, said she hoped to be there "to accompany [King Hussein] on his last journey".

The king gave a glowing tribute at Mr Rabin's funeral following his 1995 assassination.

Turkey also paid tribute to "its biggest friend in the Arab world".

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