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Czechs queue to pay Havel respect

Thousands of Czechs have said a personal farewell to former president Vaclav Havel, who led the peaceful revolution that toppled the communist regime in 1989.

The mourners waited patiently in a long line in front of the Prague Crossroads at the city's Old Town, where the coffin with Mr Havel's body went on display. Many were carrying flowers to honour Mr Havel, who died on Sunday aged 75.

The government announced that a three-day official mourning period will start on Wednesday and said it will hold a state funeral.

A private funeral for family members will follow at a crematory.

Prime Minister Petr Necas urged Czech citizens to observe a minute of silence at Friday noon and his government proposed a special law recognising Mr Havel's "contribution to freedom and democracy."

Mr Havel had turned a former church into a space where he organised international conferences and met leaders of other countries, dissidents and friends from all around the globe after his final term in office end in 2003.

Mr Havel's wife Dagmar, who was with her husband till the last, arrived dressed in black with dark sunglasses to place roses on the coffin.

On Wednesday, the remains will be moved to Prague Castle, the presidency seat, to be on display there for another two days.

Czechs were also signing condolence books to pay tribute to Mr Havel in Prague and many other places all across the country, as well as in the Slovak capital of Bratislava. Slovakia, which split from the Czech Republic in 1993, declared an official day of mourning on Friday.

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