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Obama among international dignitaries expected at Abe state funeral

The Japanese government is arranging for former U.S. President Barack Obama to attend a state funeral for slain former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe next month, a government source said Tuesday.
Other figures who may attend the Sept 27 ceremony include French President Emmanuel Macron and former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to be absent, the source said.
The government plans to finalize the attendance of foreign dignitaries by the end of this week after Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister, was shot and killed on July 8 as he was delivering an election stump speech on a road in Nara.
The government has decided to conduct the funeral despite divided public opinion over whether it is appropriate to hold the state-funded event, with 53.3 percent of respondents to a recent Kyodo News poll opposing it.
Once the dignitaries' intent to attend is confirmed, meetings with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will be arranged before and after the funeral, the source said.
In 2016, Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the site of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima, accompanied by Abe who was prime minister at the time. Obama, a Democratic Party president, is likely to appear in place of current U.S. President Joe Biden.
The government is making preparations for the funeral at the Nippon Budokan hall in Tokyo. A private funeral for Abe was held on July 12, just days after the 67-year-old lawmaker was assassinated.
Kishida expressed last month his intention to hold a state funeral for the former leader, citing his record eight years and eight months as prime minister as well as the significant recognition he garnered in the international community.
The government will hold the funeral "as an official state event to express the nation's respect and condolences as a whole, and we will invite representatives of each country to this occasion," Kishida has said.


© KYODO
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