Ethiopia: Leader's swearing in delayed for funeral

Associated Press
Ethiopians gather on the street of Addis Ababa early morning to mourn as the body of former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi arrived in the Addis Ababa , Ethiopia Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012. Meles, Ethiopia's long-time ruler and a major U.S. counter-terrorism ally who is credited with economic gains but blamed for human rights abuses, died of an undisclosed illness after not being seen in his East African country for weeks. He was 57. A European Union spokesman said that Meles died in Brussels. (AP Photo/Elias Asmare)
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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopia on Thursday postponed the 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 the death on Monday of longtime leader Meles Zenawi.

Bereket Simon, Ethiopia's communications minister, said the country had "ample time" to swear in the new prime minister.

"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."

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.

The funeral for Meles, who ruled Ethiopia for 21 years, has not yet been set. Leaders from around the world are expected to attend. Meles 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.

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