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Palestinians, world mark Arafat burial


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Arafat's portrait is seen through the window of one of his cars during a symbolic funeral in Gaza.
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Funeral services were held for Yasser Arafat in Cairo, Egypt.

Arafat's coffin was taken from the mosque by a horse-drawn carriage.

Palestinians in Ramallah mourn the only leader they've known.

Arafat's casket arrives in Ramallah amid a chaotic scene.

Arafat is buried at his Ramallah compound in an emotional scene.

A look back at the life and political career of Yasser Arafat.
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LONDON, England -- Palestinians and friends of their cause in the Arab world and around the globe have marked Yasser Arafat's burial and expressed support for the struggle he led.

In Gaza, tens of thousands of Palestinians barred from attending the burial at Arafat's Ramallah compound held rallies and symbolic funerals.

Marchers poured through the streets toward Omari mosque, Gaza's largest, while a helicopter landing pad near Arafat's former Gaza headquarters was the site of another ceremony, The Associated Press reported.

At home and in refugee camps throughout the Middle East, Palestinians mourned their 75-year-old leader, who died Thursday in Paris.

Israel cited security concerns in barring nearly all Palestinians in Gaza from traveling through Israel to Ramallah.

Instead, residents in Gaza gathered on rooftops and apartment balconies, hoping to glimpse Arafat's helicopter as it carried his body from a funeral in Cairo, Egypt to Ramallah, AP said.

Symbolic funerals were organized at all of Gaza's some 7,000 mosques, while all mosques in the West Bank city of Nablus held prayers for Arafat.

About 400 people attended the funeral at Arafat's Gaza headquarters, where a mourning tent was set up at the helicopter pad. A marching band played the Palestinian anthem.

Arafat's security personnel traveled to the site in a 12-vehicle motorcade that included Arafat's former Mercedes limousine. His trademark headdress was on his empty seat, AP reported.

Hundreds of miles away in Tehran, tens of thousands of Iranians marched in a day of support for the Palestinian struggle Friday. But Arafat was hardly mentioned.

Iran traditionally marks the last Friday of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan as "Ghods Day," or Jerusalem Day -- a day of support for the Palestinian struggle for a homeland.

Marchers carried placards denouncing Israel and the United States and shouted "Down with Israel" and "Down with America" as they converged on the city center.

At the grounds of Tehran University, marchers heard former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani speak about the history of war between Palestinians and Israel without a reference to Arafat's role.

Rafsanjani, who on Thursday had expressed his sadness at Arafat's passing, only expressed his condolences in Arabic at the end of his sermon, which he delivered for the most part in Farsi.

Meanwhile, Jordan's King Abdullah II urged the United States to "refocus" on solving the Arab-Israeli conflict in part by quelling violence in Iraq.

In a newspaper column published Friday in The New York Times, Abdullah wrote: "The world's most powerful, most visible democracy has a chance to send a strong message to the region's people, especially its youth -- a message of deeds, not words.

"That means fulfilling the promise of a rebuilt, violence-free, democratic and sovereign Iraq."

The Bush administration should take a more active role in guiding Israelis and Palestinians toward peace by "insisting that both sides engage in genuine dialogue and live up to their commitments spelled out in the road map -- one that President Bush has said could lead to the creation of a Palestinian state next year," Abdullah wrote.

The king called on Israel to withdraw from Gaza and "take other confidence building measures" to disprove allegations that it was trying to stir conflict.

Palestinians, meanwhile, should invest in public welfare and fight government corruption and terrorism to further their case for statehood, Abdullah said.

Outside the Arab world, North Korea declared three days of mourning for Arafat and ordered flags to fly at half-staff at some buildings to honor "a close friend," the official KCNA news agency reported, according to Reuters.

"The government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea decided to set the period from November 15 to 17 as a mourning period and fly flags at half mast at some institutions in this period," KCNA said, using North Korea's official name.

"A close friend of the Korean people, President Yasser Arafat visited the DPRK six times from October 1981 to June 1993," KCNA said. "He was awarded the title of Hero of the DPRK during his first Korean visit."

At the United Nations, Arafat was honored as a head of state although the Palestinians only have observer status at the world body.

At Secretary-General Kofi Annan's request, the U.N. General Assembly accorded Arafat the honors of a head of state because that's the way he was treated for many years by the 191-member body, AP reported U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard as saying.

As a result, the blue-and-white U.N. flag flew at half-staff outside U.N. headquarters on Thursday, and the General Assembly held a memorial tribute to the Palestinian leader, AP said.

General Assembly President Jean Ping said "the achievement of his lifelong dream of an independent Palestinian state existing in peace and cooperating with all its neighbors would be the best possible tribute to president Arafat."

Ping then asked the diplomats and U.N. officials to stand and observe a minute of silence in Arafat's memory. Most countries were represented, including Israel and the United States, AP said.


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