Ethiopia gives Meles Zenawi state funeral

A holy man from northern Ethiopia pays his respects to the body of late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, at the national palace in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Sept. 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia: Thousands of mourners are gathering near a public square in Ethiopia's capital to pay their final respects to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who was praised for lifting many out of poverty but vilified by some for restricting certain freedoms.

Meles, who ruled for 21 years, died Aug. 20 of an undisclosed illness in a Belgian hospital. He was 57. During his rule, Ethiopia was a strong U.S. ally on counter-terrorism issues, particularly in Somalia.

Officials said the Addis Ababa funeral is being attended by hundreds of dignitaries from around the world, including several African leaders. The White House said it was sending a delegation led by Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is currently acting as prime minister. It remains unclear when he will be sworn in.





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