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Spain Holds State Funeral For Victims Of Madrid Terrorist Attacks - 2004-03-24


Political leaders have joined royalty from around Europe in Madrid to mourn the victims of the March 11th terrorist train bombings in the Spanish capital.

Mourners gathered under gray skies to enter Madrid's Almudena Cathedral for the state funeral. Spain's Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and prime minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero joined King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia at the ceremonies. The families of many of the dead and wounded also attended.

Foreign dignitaries included U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Britain's Prince Charles, French President Jacques Chirac, and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Heavy security surrounded the church, as did mourners who overflowed the cathedral and instead watched the proceedings on giant television screens outside.

At least 190 people were killed in the blasts on four commuter trains in Madrid nearly two weeks ago, and some 18-hundred more were wounded. Today's state funeral was the first in Spain for someone other than a member of the royal family since democracy was restored in 1975, after the death of former dictator Francisco Franco.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister-elect Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has begun a series of meetings with a number of the leaders who attended the ceremonies, including Prime Minister Blair. No information has been release. He is also expected to meet with Secretary of State Powell.

Prime minister-elect Zapatero has said he plans to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq unless coalition forces are placed under UN authority.

Mr. Zapatero will also meet with French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who strongly opposed the war in Iraq and refused to send troops to be a part of the coalition.

Nine suspects, including six Moroccans have appeared in court and have been ordered to remain in custody as authorities investigate their possible involvement in the attacks. Four other suspects arrested this week will appear in court in the coming days.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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