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LUSAKA (AFP) — Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai put aside their rivalry Wednesday to join African heads of state at the funeral of Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa.

The bitter rivals mingled with more than a dozen African heads of state and government, as well as envoys from the United States and Britain, among 5,000 mourners around the Baptist church in Lusaka.

Zimbabwe President Robert Robert Mugabe offers his condolences to Zambia's First Lady Maureen MwanawasaMugabe paid tribute to Mwanawasa — who once referred to Zimbabwe as a “sinking Titanic” — when he arrived in the Zambian capital.

Mwanawasa died aged 59 in a Paris hospital on August 19 after suffering a stroke.

“Mwanawasa was a very courageous leader. He was very frank and wanted to change not only his country but the entire southern African region. We will greatly miss him,” state radio quoted Mugabe as saying.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, chairman of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC), was to deliver a speech at the funeral.

The late Zambian president was SADC chairman before Mbeki took over last month at a summit in Johannesburg.

Among African leaders present were President Ian Khama of Botswana and Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi as well as Lesotho Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.

Former colonial power Britain sent a delegation led by Foreign Office minister of state, Lord Malloch Brown, who has responsibility for African affairs. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer represented the United States.

The mourners were led by Mwanawasa’s wife Maureen and their six children.

Mwanawasa was to be buried at Embassy Park, near the presidential offices, following the service.

Copyright © 2008 AFP. All rights reserved.

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