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Select guest list for royal wedding

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- Kofi Annan and Nelson Mandela head the select list of guests invited to the wedding of Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and Argentinean Maxima Zorreguieta.

Maxima, a Roman Catholic, will marry into the historically Protestant royal house in a ceremony officiated by Amsterdam's Jewish mayor, Job Cohen, on Saturday.

After a civil ceremony, the union will be blessed in Amsterdam's 600-year-old Nieuwe Kerk by a Dutch Reform vicar, in the presence of a host of royals from Europe and Asia.

The couple will say "I Do", kneeling on prayer stools specially made for the 1901 wedding of Queen Wilhelmina to Prince Hendrik of Germany.

Among the royalty attending will be at least four European monarchs -- King Albert II of Belgium, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, King Harald V of Norway and King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden -- and Queen Noor, widow of Jordan's King Hussein, the palace said.

Britain's Prince Charles, Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito and Prince Moulay Rachid of Morocco head the list of royals representing their families and their nations.

Also attending will be Norway's Crown Prince Haakon and Princess Mette-Marit, whose marriage last August was the most recent congregation of European royalty.

After the church wedding, the newlyweds will ride through the streets in the 104-year-old horse-drawn Golden Coach given to Wilhelmina by the city of Amsterdam when she took the throne.

The bride's mother and father are expected to be among millions tuning in to watch the event live on television.

Controversial consort

The Crown Prince's relationship sparked controversy last year when it emerged that Maxima's father had been a minister during the 1976-1983 Argentinean military dictatorship.

He bowed to Dutch objections and agreed to stay away from the wedding.

And there was bad news for Maxima, 30, when she heard would probably have to testify in a civil suit launched after she was involved in a car accident three months ago.

A man injured in the accident is claiming damages after his car was in collision with Maxima's in front of a royal palace outside The Hague. The case starts next month.

Queen Beatrix announced the engagement of her son in March last year in a rare televised address.

She described Maxima as "an intelligent, modern woman, courageous and faithful to all those who are dear to her."

The Queen said she was "aware that a lot of people in our country understandably had feelings of doubt about their love" for Maxima.

"Those feelings were taken into careful consideration," she said.

Maxima sat near the queen during the television address. Then, speaking in flawless Dutch, she said, "I'm so happy that finally I can appear publicly with Alexander."

Willem Alexander, 34, is sticking to tradition by taking a foreign bride. Dutch royals have married Germans and Russians but never fellow nationals over the past two centuries.

Winter weddings are also customary. Dutch royals have often courted controversy with their consorts.

Public outrage greeted the marriage of Willem-Alexander's grandmother, Juliana, to German-born Bernhard as Nazism swelled in 1937.

The marriage of her daughter, Beatrix, in 1966 to German diplomat Claus von Amsberg, who fought for his country in World War II, was also criticised.

Public relations drive

This royal couple have, however, been attempting to improve their public image. An internet chat session with members of the public was arranged -- but failed, apparently sabotaged by hackers.

A huge party will be held at Amsterdam's Arena football stadium to mark the occasion.

Maxima, a former New York investment banker who met the Prince at a party in Seville, has acquired Deutch nationality and a sure command of the language. "I'm Latin and I'll remain Latin. I dance and I'll carry on dancing. I'll keep on singing," she told a television interviewer last week, giggling that when it came to dancing, the hips of her betrothed were "a bit stiff."

The Argentine, who studied economics, smiled her way through a gruelling tour of the Netherlands last year designed to make the public familiar with the new royalty.

The tour had her cycling through pouring rain, sitting in on Spanish lessons in a school and visiting a former World War II transit camp, homeless centres and street markets.

The national preoccupation with the royal relationship has silenced talk of refurbishing the Dutch monarchy, however. Queen Beatrix -- who succeeded Juliana in 1980 -- is closely involved in the formation of new governments.

She meets the prime minister weekly, studies and signs state documents and receives members of Parliament.

Agriculture Minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst declared last April that the monarch should play no political role -- even though his daughter was just about to marry the queen's youngest son, Prince Constantijn. Beatrix's middle son, Prince Johan Friso, is a bachelor.

Sick of speculation over his sexuality, he took the unusual step last year of issuing a public statement to say he was not gay.


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