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Monday, February 8, 1999 Published at 10:01 GMT

World: Middle East

Final farewell to King Hussein

King Hussein's body is being driven through Amman

The funeral of King Hussein has begun in Jordan, with many world leaders gathered in the capital Amman to pay their respects to a man widely regarded as a peacemaker.

 Click here for live coverage of the event

Jordan's sorrow

The king's coffin began its journey across the capital to his final resting place in royal palace grounds at noon (1000 GMT).

The casket was carried out of his Baab el-Salaam residence by six members of Jordan's royal family, who passed it to eight army officers.

His eldest son, the new King Abdullah, emerged from the building with his brothers and the former Crown Prince Hassan, who was replaced as King Hussein's successor a fortnight ago.

[ image: Royal family members carried king's body from his home]
Royal family members carried king's body from his home
The king's coffin, carried on a military Land Rover adorned with flowers, was taken on a nine-mile journey through the streets of Amman to the Raghadan Palace.

King Hussein's body will lie there for family members and world leaders to pay their last respects before the burial later on Monday.

Hundreds of Jordanians lined the route to say their last farewells to the king, many weeping openly. Some mourners ran alongside the motorcade, anxious to keep up with the coffin.

The international mourners included Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who arrived in Amman early on Monday morning, having flown there against the advice of his doctors.

The BBC's Rageh Omaar in Amman: "Normal life has come to a standstill"
King Hussein's eldest son, Abdullah, has been sworn in as his successor. One of his first tasks was to lead mourners at the service.

As Jordan plunges into grief the army and police have been put on full security alert.

Enemies gather to pay respects

The funeral brings together many traditional foes - a testimony to King Hussein's skill in building links between warring nations.

[ image: King Hussein: Driving force in peace process]
King Hussein: Driving force in peace process
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat were uniting in mourning for the man who helped bring them closer to peace.

And Iraqi Vice President Taha Mohieddin Maaruf was set to pay tribute alongside US President Bill Clinton and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair despite recent military strikes.

The BBC's Andy Tighe: The list of dignitaries reflects the hope the world places in Jordan's new king
This is the biggest state funeral since that of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.

Correspondents say Arab dignitaries and their Israeli and western counterparts will probably be separated during the service as much as possible.

Flags are flying at half mast across the Middle East. In Jordan, 40 days of mourning have been declared and people have been weeping openly in the streets.

A long battle

[ image:  ]
The king lost a long battle with cancer on Sunday.

He returned to Jordan from the US last week after chemotherapy and a second bone marrow transplant failed to beat his cancer.

Life support machines kept the king alive as Jordanians prayed for a miracle. But on Sunday, state media announced he had died from heart failure.

King Hussein, the Middle East's longest serving leader, will be buried with full military honours at the Hashemite burial ground in Amman.

Foreign mourners include Britain's Prince Charles, Japan's Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, South Africa Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and the son of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, Seif el-Islam.

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