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India ex-leader Venkataraman dies

Ramaswamy Venkataraman in 1991
Mr Venkataraman was an "outstanding figure", the prime minister said

Ramaswamy Venkataraman, who helped to draft India's constitution and served as president from 1987 to 1992, has died at the age of 98.

Mr Venkataraman was admitted to the hospital on 12 January but his condition deteriorated, a government statement said.

Announcing seven days of mourning, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India had lost an "outstanding figure".

Mr Venkataraman was an MP in the first parliament and also a vice-president.

Tough tenure

Mr Singh said: "The former president will be long remembered for his service to the nation, the strength of character and his knowledge and wisdom."

Current President Pratibha Patil said India had lost a true patriot.

"He served with distinction in various capacities in public life and ultimately rose to occupy the highest office of the nation," she said.

"In his passing away, the nation has lost a distinguished luminary."

A Tamil Nadu native, Mr Venkataraman's tenure as president coincided with the Sri Lanka crisis, the Bofors Gun deal and the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.

Mr Venkataraman died on Tuesday with his wife and son-in-law in attendance at the Army Hospital (Research and Referral) in Delhi.

The cabinet has said there will be a state funeral.



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