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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 February, 2005, 14:41 GMT
Lebanon lays ex-PM Hariri to rest
Mourners escort Hariri's funeral cortege
Hariri's death has sparked an outpouring of grief
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has been buried amid chaotic scenes at a mosque in Beirut.

Thousands of people converged on the Muhammad Amin Mosque, causing a crush, as the funeral service took place.

Mr Hariri and 14 other people were killed in an apparent suicide car bombing in the capital on Monday.

Tensions have soared since the attack, which many Lebanese blame on Syria. The Syrian government has denied it was responsible for the blast.

The US has recalled its ambassador to Syria in protest at the bombing, although it has not directly accused Damascus of responsibility.

French President Jacques Chirac, for decades a close friend of Mr Hariri, travelled to Beirut on Wednesday to pay his respects.

He said Mr Hariri's death was "a huge loss for Lebanon and the world".

Syrian Vice President Abdul-Halim Khaddam, also a friend of Mr Hariri, attended the funeral, although Mr Hariri's family had warned Syrian and Lebanese officials to stay away.

Several other foreign dignitaries were present, including US Assistant Secretary of State William Burns, Arab League General Secretary Amr Moussa and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

Appeal for calm

As Mr Hariri's body arrived at the mosque, grieving mourners tried to seize the coffin, prompting Mr Hariri's eldest son, Bahaa, to appeal for calm.

"We don't want his last minutes to be like this, step back away from his body," he pleaded through a microphone.

The casket, draped in a Lebanese flag, was passed through the jostling crowd into the huge sandstone-coloured mosque, where prayers were said, before it was finally lowered into a freshly-dug plot.

Mr Hariri's remains, and those of several bodyguards who were also killed in the blast outside the St Georges Hotel, were earlier transported by ambulance three kilometres (1.8 miles) to the mosque from his home in west Beirut.

In emotionally charged scenes, a sea of mourners, many carrying Lebanese flags, escorted the cortege.

Men and women wept uncontrollably as spectators on balconies showered the crowd with rice.

Prime minister 1992-98 and 2000-04
Self-made billionaire
Trained as a teacher, then founded successful construction firm in Saudi Arabia
Born in 1944 to a poor Sunni Muslim family in the southern Lebanese port of Sidon

The BBC's Kim Ghattas in Beirut says Christians, Muslims and Druze alike are grieving for the death of the Sunni Muslim billionaire, who symbolised the revival of Lebanon after years of bloody civil war.

Cries of "Syria out, Syria out" rang out from the crowd, as mourners vented their anger at Lebanon's powerful overlord.

Others yelled "Revenge, revenge on Lahoud and Bashar", referring to the presidents of Lebanon and Syria.

Tight security

A huge security operation was staged for the event, with heavily armed police and troops fanned out along the funeral route.

Armoured vehicles were stationed in back streets and sharpshooters positioned on rooftops.

Anti-Syrian fervour turned violent on Tuesday, when thousands of protesters took to the streets in the northern port of Tripoli and Mr Hariri's home town of Sidon in the south.

A crowd assaulted a group of Syrian workers in Sidon and a Syrian truck was reportedly torched in the north of the country.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters she was not blaming the attack on Syria but said its presence in Lebanon was destabilising.

She said the US was discussing a response to the bombing with the United Nations, and considering further diplomatic sanctions against Syria over a range of US complaints.

The UN condemned the bombing, while Secretary General Kofi Annan urged Syria to withdraw its 14,000 troops from Lebanon.

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