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Monday, February 8, 1999 Published at 22:19 GMT

World: Middle East

King Hussein laid to rest

United in grief: President Clinton and others put aside differences

King Hussein of Jordan has been laid to rest - the culmination of a day of mourning attended by members of the royal family, an array of world leaders and hundreds of thousands of ordinary Jordanians.

Jordan's sorrow
Wrapped in a simple white shroud, the king was lowered into the grave at the royal cemetery in Amman as the imam said the final prayers, surrounded by the royal princes wearing the traditional red keffiyeh headdress.

The burial marked the end of an era in the Middle East as the new King Abdullah, the king's eldest son, assumed the position that his father held for 46 years.

The BBC's Jeremy Bowen reports from Amman on how Jordan bid farewell to its king
The ceremony was also an extraordinary diplomatic and political occasion, bringing together many traditional sworn enemies in a tribute to the king's skill of creating links between warring nations.

The BBC correspondent in Amman said that even in death it appeared that King Hussein was making one last bid for reconciliation between them.

Syrian President Hafez al-Assad appeared, along with Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Israel's peace negotiations with Syria have been frozen since early 1996.

[ image: King Hussein: Renowned for his part in Middle East peace process]
King Hussein: Renowned for his part in Middle East peace process
Mr Netanyahu, and Israeli President Ezer Weizman were also present, along with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

And the funeral saw four generations of US leaders - Presidents Clinton, Bush, Carter and Ford - line up next to the king's coffin to say their farewells.

A frail President Yeltsin apparently defied his doctors to attend the funeral but was flown back to Moscow just hours after arriving.

Paul Adams reports: Even in death it seemed the king was making a last bid at reconciliation
He managed to go to the palace to join other heads of state and government leaders to pay his respects to King Hussein but appeared unsteady and was unable to file past the late king's coffin.

Monarchs, presidents and prime ministers took over an hour to each pay their respects to the king as they bowed over his coffin lying in state at the Raghadan palace. They then joined a mass procession which followed the coffin on a gun carriage to the royal mosque, accompanied by a bagpipe-playing guard of honour.

[ image: Queen Noor comforts King Hussein's sister Basma]
Queen Noor comforts King Hussein's sister Basma
Earlier, as the king's coffin began its journey from the king's Bab el Salaam residence, his widow Queen Noor stood in the doorway, surrounded by weeping royal women in black robes and white headscarves, the colour of mourning.

An estimated 800,000 Jordanians lined the funeral cortege's route from the king's home to the palace, with many weeping openly and strewing the route with flowers. Others ran alongside the motorcade, anxious not to lose sight of their late king's casket, draped in the Jordanian flag.

[ image: Thousands of mourners lined the streets to say farewell]
Thousands of mourners lined the streets to say farewell
The king lost his long fight against cancer on Sunday. He had only last month made a triumphant return to Jordan from treatment in the US, and was quick to name his eldest son Abdullah as his heir, deposing the long-time Crown Prince Hassan, King Hussein's brother.

But just days later he was rushed back to the US for chemotherapy and a second bone marrow transplant, which failed. The king returned home to die after his doctors said they could do no more for him.

Flags are flying at half mast across the Middle East, and 40 days of mourning have begun in Jordan.

King Hussein's heir now begins the task of upholding his father's substantial legacy, as he has promised.

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