Page last updated at 20:50 GMT, Saturday, 9 August 2008 21:50 UK

Palestinian 'national poet' dies

Mahmoud Darwish
Darwish won many international prizes for his work

Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish has died after surgery at the age of 67, hospital and Palestinian officials say.

He suffered complications after undergoing open-heart surgery in Houston, Texas, said a spokesman for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr Darwish was the most recognised Palestinian poet in the world, using his words to try to draw attention to the Palestinian cause.

He also delivered harsh criticism of the infighting by Palestinian factions.

Even though he became iconic he never lost his sense of humanity - we have lost part of our essence
Palestinian lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi

During a reading in 2007, Mr Darwish denounced the violence in Gaza between Hamas and Fatah, describing it as "a public attempt at suicide in the streets".

He said that the two warring factions had made the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state far more unlikely.

Poet of conscience

Mr Darwish is famous throughout the Middle East and is regarded as the Palestinian national poet.

He is said to have given voice to the Palestinian dreams of statehood, crafted their 1988 declaration of independence and helped to forge a Palestinian national identity.

"He started out as a poet of resistance and then he became a poet of conscience," said Palestinian lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi, quoted by AP news agency.

"He embodied the best in Palestinians... even though he became iconic he never lost his sense of humanity. We have lost part of our essence, the essence of the Palestinian being."

His poetry has been translated into more than 20 languages, and he has won many international prizes for his work.

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