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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 July, 2003, 17:26 GMT 18:26 UK
Prayers held for conjoined twins
Laleh Bijani's coffin is carried into the mosque
Mourners carried the sisters' coffins into the mosque
Several hundred people have attended a service at a mosque in Singapore to pray for the conjoined Iranian twins, Ladan and Laleh Bijani.

The 29-year-old sisters died on Tuesday after a marathon operation to separate them.

Their coffins were each draped in black, and were decorated with white geraniums.

The caskets were then taken to the airport, from where they are due to be flown back to Iran at around 2000 BST.

The twins' courage has been praised by the Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami.

He called on Iranians to praise the sisters for what he called their high-spirited endurance of their difficult destiny, and their determination to search for a happier future.

What happened to Laleh and Ladan is one page in the great book of destiny
President Mohamed Khatami

"Surrendering to divine fate is a sign of strong faith, profound knowledge and stable will," he told the official Irna news agency.

"What happened to Laleh and Ladan is one page in the great book of destiny."

"I know that millions of hearts here in Iran and abroad, who kept vigil and hoped desperately that the difficult surgical operation would be a success, as well as all those involved in the operation, hoped for nothing but an easier and more enjoyable life for Laleh and Ladan," he said.

Laden and Laleh died within 90 minutes of each other after the separating of their heads caused massive blood loss.

The BBC's Francis Harrison in Tehran says that through local media the country had watched the girls grow up and people were in tears when the news was announced.

The sisters had been warned of the dangers of the operation but were prepared to risk everything for the chance of independent lives.


Iranian state media had been providing minute-by-minute updates on how the operation was proceeding to a country eager for news.

Normal television and radio programmes were interrupted to announce the deaths.

Our correspondent in Tehran says there has been little suggestion there that the twins made the wrong decision, just enormous respect for their achievements and sympathy for their desire to go their separate ways.

Both women had obtained law degrees. Ladan - the more outspoken of the two, wanted to be a lawyer, while Laleh, had ambitions of becoming a journalist.

As one of them put it, her greatest wish was to be able to look into her sister's eyes for the first time in her life.





WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's David Bottomley
"They have been some concerns about whether the high-risk operation should have taken place at all"



SEE ALSO:
Iranian twins die in surgery
08 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Surgeons' sorrow at death of twins
08 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Message from Bijani twins
06 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Conjoined twins
06 Jul 03  |  Medical notes
Mourning the loss of the twins
08 Jul 03  |  Middle East


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