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Saturday, July 24, 1999 Published at 15:28 GMT 16:28 UK


Region mourns death of King Hassan

The announcer on Moroccan television broke down as he told of King Hassan's death

Morocco's North African neighbours have been joined by countries throughout the Arab and Islamic world in mourning the death of King Hassan II.

Tributes have poured in from regional leaders and countries have declared periods of official mourning.

Most TV and radio stations rescheduled their programmes, broadcasting Koranic recitations and other religious programmes.

'Great loss'

One of the first reactions came from Algeria, with whom Morocco's relations have been marred over the dispute in Western Sahara.

In a message to Morocco's new King Mohammed, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika described the late king's death as a "great loss to the fraternal Moroccan people and to the rest of the Arab Maghreb, Arab and Islamic peoples".

Bouteflika's message, read on Algerian radio, said the king's death "is a source of great sadness for me personally and for the majority of Algerians who are proud of the joint heritage between Algeria and Morocco".

Bouteflika declared three days of official mourning in Algeria.

Official mourning

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak expressed his profound sadness at the loss of "a brother, friend and comrade-in-arms".

In a radio and television broadcast, he said King Hassan's death "at this critical juncture is an immense loss for his people and his nation".

According to the Egyptian news agency Mena, Egypt declared three days of official mourning.

Libyan also announced three days of mourning.

"The green flag will fly at half mast and the TV will broadcast programmes in black and white," a statement from the Libyan cabinet said, according to Libyan radio.

Morocco's southern neighbour Mauritania, who alongside Morocco made a claim for the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara, described King Hassan's death as a "tragic occasion".

Mauritanian radio said that seven days of national mourning had been declared.

'Shared loss'

Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali sent a message of condolence to the new Moroccan King, broadcast by Tunisian radio.

He said he shared the sense of loss felt by the Moroccan people.

Tunisian TV later announced that three days of mourning had been declared.

Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir said King Hassan had been "a symbol of moderateness whose support was sought by all".

According to the Sudanese news agency Suna, Bashir added that the king had been "a brother and a friend and a messenger of peace among nations".

Further afield, the Palestinians, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait joined in declaring public mourning.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat suspended a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Gaza on hearing the news "to follow the great disaster", Palestinian radio reported.

Mr Arafat "recalled King Hassan II's stances in defence of the Palestinian people and their right to establish an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital".

Palestinian radio noted that the king had been the chairman of the Jerusalem Committee of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.

'Heartfelt condolence'

The Jordanian Royal Court issued a statement, carried by the Jordanian news agency Petra, which announced that the Jordanian flag would be lowered at the Court for three days.

Jordan offered Morocco its "heartfelt condolences over this great loss".

The Emiri Court in Kuwait, too, mourned the "loss of a noble and magnanimous Arab man" and praised King Hassan's stance during the Gulf war.

"The State of Kuwait will never forget his historic stance," an Emiri statement said, quoted by the Kuwaiti news agency Kuna.

Iran, whose relations with Morocco became strained after the 1979 Islamic revolution, praised King Hassan's work in the region.

'Remarkable role'

"There is no doubt that King Hassan played a remarkable role in managing the affairs of Morocco, not to mention his role in north-west Africa in terms of creating a stable climate," an Iranian radio commentary said.

"No doubt the loss of King Hassan is regarded by Arab and African countries as an important issue, but the new leaders of this country will undoubtedly endeavour to fill this vacuum," it added.

Israeli radio said President Ezer Weizman would represent the state at the king's funeral on 26 July.

Furthermore, the meeting between Israeli PM Ehud Barak and Mr Arafat, due to be held at the Gaza check point between Israel and the Gaza strip on the 24 July has been postponed for three days to allow both men to attend the funeral.

Enclave

King Hassan's death seemed not to have affected Melilla, a Spanish enclave in Morocco, the Spanish news agency Efe said.

Government delegate Enrique Beamud told the agency that Moroccans in the enclave were handling the news "with normality" and that "the situation in Melilla is of total and absolute calm and there are no expectations that any kind of disturbance will occur." He said no special measures were in force on the border between Melilla and the Moroccan province of Nador.

Sources: BBC Monitoring Caversham, 24 July 1999

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.



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