Hassan II of Morocco laid to rest

Clinton among dozens of heads of state to attend king's funeral

July 26, 1999|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

RABAT, Morocco -- King Hassan II of Morocco was buried yesterday in a royal mausoleum before an assemblage of dozens of kings and princes, presidents and prime ministers from the Arab world, Israel, Europe and Africa.

A military gun carriage bore the coffin of the king through the thronged streets of Rabat beneath the merciless sun of the Maghreb region. The coffin was draped with a thick black blanket embroidered with verses from the Koran, and members of the royal court chanted Muslim liturgy and the Moroccan national anthem as they marched among chaotic crowds of hundreds of thousands of the king's subjects.

The multitudes lining the streets of Rabat chanted, "God is great," wailed and waved flags and scarves as the funeral procession moved slowly through the streets of the capital.

President Clinton and President Jacques Chirac of France, walking at the lead of the procession of foreign representatives at the funeral, were repeatedly jostled by Moroccan mourners straining to get closer to the king's coffin.

It was the second time in less than six months that world leaders had gathered to mourn the passing of an epoch-making Arab monarch. The death of King Hussein of Jordan in February after a 47-year reign produced similar scenes of public mourning and impromptu meetings of heads of state.

Hassan, who succeeded Husssein as the Arab world's longest-serving monarch, ruled for 38 years that were marked by a half-dozen coup attempts, social upheaval and economic progress for many of Morocco's 29 million citizens.

Virtually all Moroccan businesses were closed yesterday in observance of his death, which came Friday after four years of deteriorating health. But the work of diplomacy continued as leaders held unscheduled discussions between their funereal duties.

As they awaited the beginning of the three-mile funeral procession from the royal palace to the burial ground, Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel and Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, were seen in an animated discussion with Clinton in a room in the palace.

The president also held brief discussions with Chirac, King Abdullah of Jordan, President Ezer Weizman of Israel, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, King Juan Carlos of Spain, Prince Charles of Britain and the leaders of delegations from Kuwait, Senegal, Yemen, Algeria, Nigeria, Bangladesh and the Vatican.

An anticipated meeting between Clinton and President Hafez el Assad of Syria did not happen, however. Assad remained in Damascus. A delegation headed by Vice President Zuheir Masharkah represented Syria, Agence France-Presse reported.

The rapidly assembled U.S. delegation included the first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the Clintons' daughter, Chelsea. Former President George Bush and two former secretaries of state, Warren Christopher and James A. Baker III, also flew here aboard Air Force One to attend the rites.

Hillary Clinton was accorded a rare honor for a woman of an audience with the new Moroccan ruler, Hassan's son, King Mohammed Ibn Al Hassan, 36. She also paid a condolence call on the king's widow. In Muslim societies, women are strictly segregated from men at religious observances, particularly funerals.

Hassan served as a bridge between Israel and Egypt in the secret diplomacy leading up to President Anwar Sadat's path-breaking visit to Jerusalem in 1977 and the Camp David accord of 1978.

Clinton said that deaths this year of Hassan and Hussein of Jordan marked the passing of an old order, and he expressed optimism that their successors would continue their legacy of moderation and recognition of Israel.

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