Foes reunited at Pope's funeral
At what is expected to be one of the biggest funerals ever, there will be heads ofgovernments whose hostile exchanges have long dominated the headlines -- the United States andIran, Israel and Syria, Zimbabwe and Britain among others.
"The conviction he had about humankind, about life and about peace -- it just shone through," said former U.S. president George Bush, father of the current president, aboard Air Force One as it was heading to Rome on Wednesday.
But the pacifist message often fell on deaf ears.
Tehran and Washington have been enemies since Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979, months after John Paul was elected Pope.
Iran's former leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, was the first to call the United Statesthe "Great Satan", while U.S. President George W. Bush has said Iran is part of an "axis of evil" and accuses Tehran of secretly building nuclear arms.
In another long-standing war of words, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has described Communist Cuba as an "outpost of tyranny".
Cuba is sending National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon.
Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who will not attend the funeral, hailed the Pope as a friend of peace -- but his condolences for the late Pontiff also included a jab at U.S. sanctions on hiscountry.
Funeral guest and Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian, too, combined piety with politics, describing his country as "the Vatican's most faithful partner".
The Holy See is Taiwan's only European ally, while Beijing sees the island as a renegade province. China cut relations with the Vatican more than 50 years ago and will send no envoy to the funeral.
Seating arrangements for the funeral have not been made public, but they will require the Vatican's finest diplomacy.
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe may recall some of his own musings on religion when he listens to the funeral prayers for the late Pontiff.
"We are now being coerced to accept and believe that a new political-cum-religious doctrine has arisen, namely that 'There is but one political god, George W. Bush, and Tony Blair is his prophet'," Mugabe told the U.N. general assembly last September.
Blair has criticized Mugabe's treatment of political opponents and policy of seizing white-owned farms for allocation to blacks in the former British colony. Mugabe sees Blair, who will also be at the funeral, as a chief enemy, saying he cajoled the European Union into imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe.
The burial will also draw visitors whose animosity has been less vocal but equally embittered.
Turkey and Armenia, which have no diplomatic relations, will both send their heads of government. Turkey is trying to counter long-standing accusations that it slaughtered 1.5 million Armenians during and after World War One, which it denies.
The issue has come under fresh scrutiny as Turkey strives to enter the EU.
The only traditional foes to bring a gift of peace for the late Pontiff may be nuclear-armed India and Pakistan.
On Thursday, a day before the Pope's burial, the passengers on the first bus service in more than 50 years from Pakistani Kashmir to Indian Kashmir walked across a "peace bridge" between the two territories to resume their journey on the other side.
The region has been
divided since a 1947-48 war, and the brief walk across the bridge was
hailed as a possible beginning of a much longer process -- forgiveness
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