Israelis pay last respects to SharonAgence France-Presse . Jerusalem / New Age Online
Israel prepared to pay its respects Sunday to Ariel Sharon, both admired and reviled for his uncompromising style and whose death drew emotional reactions even after eight years in a coma.
Celebrated as a military hero by some, recognised as a pragmatic politician by others and despised as a bloodthirsty criminal by his foes, Sharon was a polarising figure at home and abroad.
But Israelis of all stripes acknowledged Sharon as a key figure in their country's history, whose death at 85 on Saturday left president Shimon Peres as the Jewish state's last surviving founding father.
Sharon's body was to lie in state Sunday at Jerusalem's Knesset, or parliament, between 1000 GMT and 1600 GMT, a statement from the prime minister's office said.
Sharon will be buried on Monday afternoon at his ranch in the Negev desert in southern Israel in a military ceremony.
He had been comatose since January 4, 2006, after a massive stroke. His condition took a sudden turn for the worse on New Year's Day when he suffered serious kidney problems after surgery.
Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said ‘his memory will forever be held in the heart of the nation,’ while Peres said he would be ‘greatly missed’.
World leaders also sent condolences, with US president Barack Obama describing him as a leader who ‘dedicated his life to the state of Israel’.
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