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Sobhuza celebrates diamond jubilee

By NAT GIBSON

MBABANE, Swaziland -- Dressed in royal leopard skins, King Sobhuza II of Swaziland celebrated his diamond jubilee Friday and it was truly a celebration fit for a king -- and the princess who came from England to confer one of Britain's highest honors on the world's longest reigning monarch.

Spearing-twirling warriors, bare-breasted maidens in swirling skirts, gymnasts and boyscouts and the nation's entire air force -- both planes -- turned out to celebrate the 'Lion of Swaziland' and his 60 years on the throne.

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Princess Margaret of Britain was the guest of honor at the Mbabane sports field, where tens of thousands of Swazis converged for a day of colorful celebrations mixing African and European pomp and circumstance.

Other guests included 9 african heads of state and the 82-year-old king's estimated 100 wives, 600 children and uncounted grand children.

The celebrations were kicked off by a red-coated military band laboring through a rendition of 'Greensleeves.' They ended with the monarch himself joining his traditional Swazi regiment of warriors dressed in lion and leopard skins in a war dance of waving spears.

Bare breasted maidens in skimpy tribal dress swirled through the estimated crowd of 50,000 people and singers sung the praises of the longest reigning monarch in the world.

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Born on July 4, 1899, Sobhuza technically ascended to the throne at the age of five months. He did not begin to rule, however, until officially assuming the throne in 1921. Either way, his reign is still the longest, exceeding Emperor Hirohito's reign in Japan by five years.

More than 2,000 high school students gave a well orchestrated display of gymnastics, ending with them forming a crown over the word 'biyati' (Long Live the King) formed by human bodies.

The entire air force -- two-Israeli made transport planes known as flying eggs because of their odd shape -- flew over the sports field.

Princess Margaret, dressed in a pink coat topped by a white hat, presented the king with the Grand Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George -- the highest order the British government can bestow on a British commonwealth leader.

Sobhuza used the anniversary to urge world leaders to seek mutual understanding in the interests of peace.

'The entire world is in a state of flux and confusion. We don't know whether we are coming or going' the king said. 'The world is a victim of insecurity because of a lack of brotherhood and mutual trust.'

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Switching to his own continent, the king blamed Africa's post independent strife on a conflict of cultures caused by tradional values being eroded by European colonial influences.

'We are all victims of foreign cultures,' he said.

The king imself has spent much of his time on the throne trying to resolve that dilemma by welding the Swaziland's traditional culture to a limited form of Western democracy.

The result has brought stability to racially-mixed Swaziland, a landlocked country the size of New Jersey sandwiched between the militant black nationalism of Mozambique and apartheid South Africa.

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