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Ethiopia: Longtime leader to be buried next month
Thursday - 8/23/2012, 1:24pm EDT
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) - Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who died of an unknown illness earlier this week, will be buried on Sept. 2, the government spokesman said Thursday.
The government had postponed an emergency session of parliament to swear in a new prime minister as many leaders attended the funeral of a church leader.
Acting Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was to be sworn in Thursday following Zenawi's death on Monday.
Bereket Simon, Ethiopia's communications minister said the country had "ample time" to swear in the new prime minister. He said Meles will be buried in the capital Addis Ababa
"There is no need to rush into it when the nation is grieving," Bereket said. "What all the lawmakers and their constituencies and the nation at large want to do at this time is mourn the great loss and honor the late prime minister. We want to first honor this and handle the prime minister's funeral with due diligence."
"The succession is already completed, and Hailemariam will take over as a prime minister," Bereket said.
Bereket also said the death of Abune Paulos, the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, was another reason for the delay. Hailemariam attended and spoke at the Thursday funeral.
Leaders from around the world are expected to attend Meles's funeral. Meles who ruled Ethiopia for 21 year, died in a Belgium hospital late Monday from an illness that Ethiopian officials have not revealed.
Hailemariam is a relatively young figure on Ethiopia's political scene and it's not clear if old guard leaders will allow him to hold onto the prime minister's seat until 2015 elections.
Ethiopia is a strong U.S. ally on counter-terrorism issues, particularly in Somalia. Meles was hailed for advancing Ethiopia's economic progress but was denounced by human rights groups for a heavy handed approach to political dissent.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)