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State funeral for Cyprus' ex-president Clerides

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MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS | November 19, 2013 06:26 AM EST | AP

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Politicians, dignitaries, and hundreds of ordinary people gathered Tuesday for the state funeral of Cyprus' former president, Glafcos Clerides, who died last week at the age of 94.

The service was the culmination of a three-day mourning period for Clerides whose statesmanship was the driving force behind the divided country's successful European Union membership bid.

Hundreds of people applauded and shouted "Worthy!" as Clerides' coffin, draped in the Cypriot and Greek flags, made its way to the Church of the Lord's Wisdom in the capital Nicosia atop an artillery gun carriage that was flanked by a military guard of honor.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic and Israel's Tourism Minister Uzi Landau were among those in attendance. The leader of Cyprus' Orthodox Christian Church, Archbishop Chrysostomos II, presided.

A British-trained lawyer and World War II veteran, Clerides helped shape Cyprus' politics over a career spanning nearly half a century.

After losing in two presidential elections in 1983 and 1988, Clerides won the powerful office in 1993 and a second five-year term in 1998. During that time he oversaw the completion of negotiations for entering the EU, though he left office before the country formally joined in 2004.

But he could not fulfill his dream of reunifying Cyprus, which was split into an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece.

Former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat attended Clerides' funeral, while Turkey's foreign ministry expressed sadness at Clerides' passing.

In his eulogy, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades thanked Clerides for teaching him that in times of crisis, the homeland is best served not by grand oratory, but "daring and determination to assume your responsibilities irrespective of the political cost."

"Duty to country is to be useful, not to be adored," said Anastasiades, who in March negotiated a painful, multibillion euro financial rescue that crushed the country's banking sector.

Clerides' family had requested that instead of traditional wreaths, mourners make donations to a United Nations-steered body tasked with discovering the fate of hundreds of people who disappeared during intercommunal fighting in the 1960s and during the Turkish invasion.

Clerides will be buried in a family plot at a Nicosia cemetery next to his wife Lila-Irene, who died in 2007. He is survived by his daughter Kate.