12 November 2004
BRUSSELS – Belgium sent its foreign and development ministers to attend the funeral of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Cairo on Friday.
Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht and development chief Armand de Decker joined a host of world dignitaries in the Egyptian capital, including Belgium’s EU Commissioner Louis Michel.
A large number of Arab leaders were in attendance, alongside representatives from many European countries.
America sent its under-Secretary of State, William Burns, and France, Germany and the UK sent their diplomatic chiefs.
A solemn ceremony was held with full military honours, and funeral guests took part in a two minute prayer in the Al Galaa mosque.
They then had the opportunity to express their condolences to the new Palestinian administration, led by Mahmoud Abbas.
This was followed by a procession behind Arafat’s coffin, which was pulled by six black horses to the military airport of Almaza.
The coffin was then put on a plane to Ramallah, where Arafat spent the last three years of his life under siege by the Israelis.
In accordance with Muslim tradition, Arafat’s wife Suha was not visible during the ceremony, remaining in a room near to the mosque with the wife of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Thousands of Palestinians were waiting for the arrival of the coffin in Ramallah, shouting slogans pledging their blood and souls in support to their deceased leader and trying to enter his former compound.
The authorities appealed for calm, promising that the crowd would be able to see Arafat, known to the Palestinians as Abu Ammar.
On Thursday Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt expressed his condolences to Arafat’s family and the Palestinian people.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian News