Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Gorbachev to miss Thatcher funeral

Health problems will prevent Mikhail Gorbachev attending Baroness Thatcher's funeral

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev will not attend Baroness Thatcher's funeral due to health problems, his spokesman said.

The 82-year-old, who paid tribute to Lady Thatcher as a "heavyweight politician and a striking person" following her death on Monday, was widely rumoured to be one of many global figures to attend next week's ceremonial funeral.

But his spokesman, Vladimir Polyakov, said he would not be attending due to health problems.

Mr Gorbachev is not the only high-profile name who is too unwell to attend. On Wednesday, Nancy Reagan's spokeswoman said that, although she was "heartbroken" over Lady Thatcher's death, she would not be attending and had asked the chairman of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation to represent her.

"Mrs Reagan is heartbroken over Baroness Thatcher's death and would really like to be there in person to pay her respects," the spokeswoman said. "Unfortunately, she is no longer able to make that kind of a trip, so will not be attending the funeral. She has asked Fred Ryan, the chairman of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and long-time personal friend, to represent her."

Formal invitations for next Wednesday's ceremonial funeral are only expected to be issued later, but the Queen, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are already confirmed as attending.

It is the first time the Queen, who will be accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, has attended the funeral of a prime minister since Winston Churchill's in 1965.

On Wednesday, former premier Mr Blair and his wife Cherie confirmed they will attend, and a spokesman for his successor, Mr Brown, said he and his wife Sarah will be at the funeral, despite Mr Brown being unable to attend the recall of Parliament because of a prior commitment.

FW de Klerk, the last president of apartheid South Africa, will be attending the funeral as a guest of the Thatcher family, a spokesman for the FW de Klerk Foundation confirmed. Mr de Klerk, who ordered the release of Nelson Mandela from jail and agreed to negotiations that ended apartheid, earlier paid tribute to Lady Thatcher "not only as one of Britain's greatest prime ministers but also as a leader whose policies and approach had a significant impact on politics throughout the world".

Ten members of staff from the Ritz hotel, where Lady Thatcher had been staying since Christmas until her death there on Monday, have also been invited to her funeral as thanks for the care she received.

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