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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 November, 2004, 14:45 GMT
Arab world mourns 'end of an era'
Woman crying in front of image of Yasser Arafat
For many, Arafat was the Palestinian cause
Arabs across the Middle East have been grieving the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, which for some mark the end of an era.

Others have expressed fears that Israel could take advantage of any Palestinian power vacuum.

Tunisia, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Yemen and Jordan have announced three days of national mourning along with Egypt.

Mr Arafat's body is expected later on Thursday in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, for a military funeral.

In a statement, the Egyptian presidency honoured Mr Arafat as "a historic leader who led his people with courage in all the stages of the national struggle".

In Lebanon, Palestinian refugees met news of Mr Arafat's death with wails of grief and volleys of gunfire.

Refugees' anger

However, it was in Jordan that Mr Arafat's death was felt particularly hard and many were angry the funeral would not be taking place in the kingdom.

Arafat was the embodiment of the Palestinian question and his absence will certainly be greatly felt
Hossam Zaki
Arab League spokesman

Shops were closed and the Koran blared from loudspeakers as hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees mourned the death of their leader.

Jordan has the largest community of Palestinians in the diaspora - most of the 1.8 million refugees there still live in camps.

"His funeral should have been here among his people," said Aouni Shatarat, from Mr Arafat's Fatah faction in the Baqaa camp.

The camp's usually busy market was quiet as shopkeepers closed their shutters in a mark of respect.

Youths took to the streets, holding up banners with images of Mr Arafat as news of his death filtered into Jordan.

Some Palestinians praised their late leader for remaining steadfast despite the two-and-a-half-year Israeli siege of his West Bank compound.

"Arafat remained faithful to his principles and did not sell out the cause," shopkeeper Abdul Latif Ahmed said.

Peace 'up to Israel'

In Cairo, Arab League spokesman Hossam Zaki said Mr Arafat was "the embodiment of the Palestinian question" and that his passing would not open all the doors for peace in the Middle East.

Holding hands in front of images of Yasser Arafat
Some Arabs fear a Palestinian power vacuum
"This is false and the answers never really lie with the Palestinians as much as with the Israelis," he said.

Both Israel and the United States have long said that Mr Arafat stood in the way of any chances of peace.

Iran urged Palestinians not to let Israel take advantage of any vacuum following Mr Arafat's passing.

"What is important now is for the Palestinians to stay united and understand the sensitivity of the situation to confront the plots of the Zionist regime," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said.

That view was echoed by Yemen, with the presidency urging Palestinians "to unite during this difficult time to rob the enemies of Palestine of the chance to stir up differences".


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Continuing radio coverage on Yasser Arafat's death



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