Saakashvili makes epic journey to Polish burial

Mon 19 April 2010 11:09 GMT | 16:09 Local Time

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Mikheil Saakashvili

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili reached Krakow just in time for the burial of Poland's late president, Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria.

Saakashvili arrived in Krakow on Sunday about an hour before the coffins of Lech Kaczynski and his wife were laid to rest in Wawel Cathedral's crypt.

Mikheil Saakasvhili first landed in Portugal, then travelled via Italy, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania. At each stop, the president's plane had to receive clearance to fly at low altitude because of the cloud of volcanic ash drifting from Iceland at higher altitudes.

The ash cloud made dozens of foreign mourners, including US President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, cancel plans to attend the funeral.

Shortly after arrival President Saakashvili joined the funeral procession, which was on its way from St Mary's Basilica, where a solemn mass had been held, to Wawel Cathedral where the first couple were buried.

Saakashvili and his wife Sandra Roelofs walked to Wawel directly behind the coffins. Georgia's first lady, who made her journey from Brussels by land, arrived in Krakow earlier and attended the mass at St Mary's Basilica.

Lech Kaczynski has been posthumously granted the title of National Hero of Georgia and the Georgian authorities have decided to name a street in Tbilisi after him.

Temur Iakobashvili, Georgian state minister for reintegration, on Sunday described the death of Lech Kaczynski as a 'great' and 'serious loss' not only for Poland, but for Georgia too.

'President Kaczynski, as well as his team, those [other Polish senior officials], who have died in the plane crash, were great supporters of Georgia within the EU and NATO. The time will come when we will be able to speak openly about Mr Kaczynski's role, including during the NATO [2008 Bucharest] Summit. Now I can say that it was thanks to him that [Bucharest summit declaration] contains the wording that Georgia and Ukraine will become NATO members,' he told the Georgian public broadcaster's weekly program, Accents.

Civil Georgia

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