Mandela funeral: Arrival of world leaders in S Africa starts

MandellaSome leaders are expected to travel to Mandela's rural childhood village of Qunu for his funeral service and burial on December 15.

President Pranab Mukherjee will be among 70 heads of state and government and global figures who will attend a memorial service in South Africa tomorrow for anti-apartheid legend Nelson Mandela, making it one of the largest such gatherings in generations.

Scores of foreign dignitaries have already arrived in the country for the memorial service at the 95,000-seat FNB Stadium, where Mandela made his last major public appearance during the 2010 football World Cup.

President Mukherjee will lead a high-level delegation to the memorial service of the former South African President, who died at the age of 95 on December 5.

The delegation will comprise UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj, Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury and BSP leader Satish Mishta, a Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesman said in New Delhi.

There has been "unprecedented interest" to attend the revered statesman's funeral, South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told a news conference here.

The other dignitaries who have confirmed their attendance include US President Barack Obama, Brazilian leader Dilma Rousseff, French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Obama will be accompanied by his wife Michelle and three living former occupants of the White House – Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W Bush.

Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will also attend the event.

Britain's Prince Charles will represent Queen Elizabeth II at the memorial service.

Authorities have mobilised around 11,000 security personnel to ensure security during the service.

Some leaders are expected to travel to Mandela's rural childhood village of Qunu for his funeral service and burial on December 15.

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