ANKARA, Turkey -- Thousands of people turned out in the streets of the Turkish capital Wednesday as state funeral ceremonies were held for President Turgut Ozal, who died suddenly of a heart seizure.
Among those attending were dignitaries of 72 countries, including several heads of state and government, but Turks were visibly disappointed that former President Bush, a personal friend of Ozal, was unable to make it.
Important meetings were also held on the sidelines as leaders gathered for the funeral. Turkish and Greek leaders met, as did the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, whose forces have been involved in bitter fighting over the past few weeks.
Ozal died Saturday shortly after returning from an exhausting tour of Turkic states in Central Asia and the Caucasus. He suffered a coronary condition that caused his pulse rate to fluctuate and his blood pressure to drop.
The funeral ceremonies began at the Grand National Assembly, where Ozals body lay in state, with his coffin draped in the Turkish flag -- a white crescent-and-star on a red field -- and surrounded by red carnations.
Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel, foreign heads of state and government, and a host of Turkish parliamentary deputies and politicians filed past the coffin, which was then taken in a funeral cortege through the streets of Ankara.
Thousands of people lined the streets as the cortege went by, heading for the Kocatepe Mosque, where prayers were held for the late president. The body was later flown to Istanbul for burial Thursday at a site in the heart of the city.
Greek Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis held discussions with Demirel on bilateral issues, officials said. Mitsotakis flew to Ankara for the funeral despite a storm of protest in Greece over Turkish participation in NATO's air operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Armenian President Levon Ter Petrosyan also met his Azerbaijani counterpart Abul Faz Elchibey to discuss the conflict between the two Caucasus republics over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.
The Turkish government took extra security precautions for Petrosyan because of hostile public sentiments against him in Ankara. He told reporters after meeting Elchibey that the two sides were ready for serious talks.
Officials did not immediately disclose what Mitsotakis and Demirel discussed. Also in Ankara was Greek Foreign Minister Michalis Papaconstantinou.
Among other visitors attending the ceremonies were former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and German President Richard Von Weizsaecker. The Turkic states of Central Asia were represented at the highest level.
Ozal underwent heart bypass surgery in Houston, Texas, in 1990. Hospital sources said after his death that his heart was just too tired to go on working and he literally collapsed and died of exhaustion.