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Tributes paid at Rabbani funeral

Dignitaries have been paying tribute before the coffin of former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was killed by a suicide bomber claiming to carry a message of peace from the Taliban.

President Hamid Karzai, Afghan lawmakers and foreign ambassadors were among those who gathered at the presidential palace in Kabul at the beginning of the funeral ceremony for Mr Rabbani, whose coffin was draped in a red, black and green national flag.

Earlier, the coffin was carried by uniformed servicemen with caps and white gloves. Mr Rabbani's son followed directly behind in the procession.

The ex-president headed the Afghan peace council, which was seeking to reconcile the nation's warring factions. He was killed Tuesday evening in Kabul by an assassin who visited his home under the guise of delivering a message from the insurgency.

"It is our responsibility to act against those who are enemies of peace," said Karzai, who hailed Mr Rabbani as a tireless advocate for reconciliation and "the martyr of the path of peace".

The president said Afghans should not despair over Mr Rabbani's death, but instead should escalate efforts to bring an end to years of fighting in Afghanistan.

"Today we are witnessing one of the biggest and saddest events of this important political time in the history of the world," said Salahuddin Rabbani, the former president's son. He urged the Afghan government to aggressively investigate the killing.

Mr Rabbani, 70, was the leader of Afghanistan's Northern Alliance, which helped overthrow Taliban rule during the US-led invasion in 2001. The peace council that he headed was set up by Mr Karzai to work toward a political solution to the conflict.

It has made little headway since it was formed a year ago, but it is backed by many in the international community as helping move toward a settlement.

The suicide attacker who killed Mr Rabbani had a bomb in his turban, and gained entry to the former president's home by convincing officials, including Mr Karzai's advisers, that he represented the Taliban leadership and wanted to discuss reconciliation.

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