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US President Joe Biden paid his respects to Queen Elizabeth on the eve of her state funeral on Sunday, appearing on a balcony overlooking the coffin of the late British monarch as she lay in state.

Biden is among dozens of dignitaries and royals from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas who will attend Monday’s funeral. Hundreds of thousands of people descended on London to pay their respects to Britain’s longest-serving monarch, who died on September 8 at the age of 96.

Elizabeth’s body has lain undisturbed in historic Westminster Hall since Wednesday, and people from all walks of life, across the country and overseas have lined up for hours to file past her coffin in a constant flow and emotional.

As Biden took his place on the balcony alongside his wife Jill, he made the sign of the cross before briefly placing his hand on his heart.

After witnessing the grim scene, the US leader, Japan’s Emperor Naruhito, French President Emmanuel Macron and other heads of state from around the world headed to a reception with King Charles III.

Biden, who arrived on Saturday evening, said the Queen, who reigned for a record 70 years until her d*ath on September 8 at the age of 96, “defined an era”.

Australia’s anti-monarchy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who saw the lie and met Charles on Saturday, told Sky News Australia the Queen was “a constant reassuring presence”.

There was also a private audience at Buckingham Palace for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, which, like Australia and 12 other Commonwealth realms, now counts Charles as its sovereign.

“You could see it meant a lot (to Charles) to have seen the extent and outpouring of people’s love and affection for her late Majesty,” she said on television on Sunday. from the BBC.

But in a sign of challenges ahead for the new king, Ardern added that she expected New Zealand to abandon the British monarchy “within my lifetime”.

The leaders of Russia, Afghanistan and Myanmar are not invited

Biden will join presidents, prime ministers, kings, queens and sultans representing nearly 200 countries and territories at Monday’s funeral.

French President Macron was seen walking by the River Thames earlier on Sunday, mingling with people gathered in the streets around parliament.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is no longer expected to attend, Reuters reported, citing an unnamed British government source. Inviting the man who Western leaders say ordered the 2018 m*rder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi had been controversial. The Saudi crown prince has denied any role in the m*rder.

Britain has invited heads of state or ambassadors from any country it has full diplomatic relations with, but it’s up to the nations they send to decide. The change was made by Saudi Arabia, the source added.

Leaders from Russia, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Syria and North Korea were not invited to join the 2,000 invitees.

Last week, the Moscow Foreign Ministry called the decision “deeply immoral” and “blasphemous” in memory of the queen. China will attend the abbey, but has been prevented by parliamentary leaders from going in state.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and Reuters)

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