Fischer misses Arafat funeralamid security clampdown

12th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

12 November 2004 , CAIRO - Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat may not have lived to rule an independent Palestinian state but his funeral on Friday carried all the ceremony of a state occasion with heightened security meaning that the German delegation missed the event. The remains of the Palestinian Authority's first president were borne through the streets of Cairo on a gun carriage with full military honours. Palestinian hymns played as the procession made its way to a military establishment north of the

12 November 2004

CAIRO - Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat may not have lived to rule an independent Palestinian state but his funeral on Friday carried all the ceremony of a state occasion with heightened security meaning that the German delegation missed the event.

The remains of the Palestinian Authority's first president were borne through the streets of Cairo on a gun carriage with full military honours. Palestinian hymns played as the procession made its way to a military establishment north of the city.

The Cairo ceremony was closed to the general public amid a tight security clampdown, but attended by Arab heads of state and high- ranking politicians from the region and beyond.

Heavy air traffic and reported delays at Cairo airport forced many visiting dignitaries to bypass the tent at the airport where Palestinian leaders were waiting to receive condolences.

Security forces transported latecomers across town - but many failed to make the ceremony.

As the funeral procession proceeded to Cairo's Al-Maza military airbase, edgy security forces blocked entry to some guests. Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal was turned back, as was Egyptian presidential advisor Osama al-Bas.

The German delegation, headed by Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, was transported by bus from Cairo airport to the military base - to be told by soldiers that they had missed the ceremony.

Bodyguards and other members of the German delegation circled the wheelchair of 82-year-old SPD politician Hans-Jurgen Wischnewski as the crowds closed in. In 1997 Yassir Arafat had awarded Wischnewski, a veteran of past diplomatic campaigns, Palestine's highest honour.

Despite missing the funeral, Wischnewski said he said he was happy that Arafat, in death, was being acknowledged as a head of state despite Israeli efforts, in the last years of his life, to halt his political ambitions.

Fischer merely shook his head. Attempting to maintain composure he wished he had been more punctual. "It is how it is," he said. After an hour's stay-over, he boarded a plane and departed.

Both those Palestinians who had worked alongside Arafat for 30 years in the struggle for Palestinian rights and those who suffered under his difficult leadership style gathered at al-Maza with tears in their eyes.

Many of the Arab leaders gathered in the front row of mourners as Arafat's coffin was carried onto the plane had not seen the Palestinian leader in years because of his confinement in Ramallah.

No one can yet say if the Palestinian people will embrace a new political path in the absence of Arafat, or if rivalry will overshadow the new leadership contingent of Mahmoud Abbas, Rawhi Fattouh, Nabil Shaath and Faruq Qaddumi.

A dispute which erupted in Cairo overnight was perhaps an omen of things to come, as Palestinian leaders squabbled over which 12 high- ranking politicians would accompany Arafat's body on the journey home to Ramallah.

DPA

Subject: German news 

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