State funeral for Cyprus' ex-president Clerides

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NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) - Amid applause and shouts of respect, Cyprus's former President Glafcos Clerides was laid to rest Tuesday after politicians, dignitaries and hundreds of ordinary Cypriots paid their last respects to the man whose statesmanship was the driving force behind the divided country's successful European Union membership bid.

In Cyprus, applause and shouts of "Worthy!" _ denoting that the deceased is a worthy of the highest praise _ during a funeral procession and burial are among the highest posthumous honors and signs of respect that ordinary people can bestow.

The state funeral service at the Church of the Lord's Wisdom in the capital Nicosia was the culmination of a three-day mourning period for Clerides who died last week at the age of 94.

Some in the crowd lining the route to the church wept while others threw flowers on Clerides' coffin _ draped in the Cypriot and Greek flags _ as it made its way 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 main ambition 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.

Clerides was praised for his unwavering sense of duty, even amid the most difficult circumstances. As speaker of parliament and acting president in the wake of the 1974 invasion, Clerides kept a scarred Cypriot state from falling into complete disarray for months until President Makarios could return from abroad after fleeing a coup attempt.

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

In his eulogy, an emotional 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.

Anastasiades had succeeded Clerides as leader of the rightist Democratic Rally party which the former president founded and built into one of the country's top political forces.

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.

A 21-gun salute preceded Clerides' burial 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.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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