CAIRO (AP) — Egypt on Thursday laid to rest its veteran diplomat Boutros Boutros-Ghali, holding a funeral procession with top honors in the capital, Cairo, followed by a service at the nation's largest Coptic cathedral for the man who was the first U.N. chief from Africa.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi led the procession, walking at the front of the cortege as a horse-drawn hearse carried Boutros-Ghali's flag-draped coffin. The head of Egypt's Coptic Church attended the service in Cairo, along with senior dignitaries.
Eulogizing Boutros-Ghali, the Coptic patriarch, Pope Tawadros II, said Egypt was bidding "farewell to this fine example in Egyptian life and in Egyptian history."
UNESCO chief Irina Bokova, representing the United Nations, Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby, and his predecessor Amr Moussa and other Egyptian ministers and officials attended the service at the Coptic Cathedral in the Abbassia district in Cairo.
At U.N. headquarters in New York and U.N. offices around the world, flags flew at half-staff in honor of the sixth U.N. secretary-general.
The 193-member General Assembly paid tribute to Boutros-Ghali, led by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who said that as the first post-Cold War secretary-general he "helped the United Nations find its footing in a new global landscape" at a tumultuous time.
"He broke barriers as the first African and Arab secretary-general of the United Nations, and consistently gave voice to the poorest and least powerful members of the human family," Ban said. "Boutros-Ghali also oversaw remarkable growth in peacekeeping. His 'Agenda for Peace' report made far-reaching proposals for fortifying this flagship U.N. activity, many of which have since become standard practice — but many of which also remain unfulfilled."
Ban said Boutros-Ghali "never attempted to endear himself to everybody" and was too independent for some people. But he said Boutros-Ghali considered independence "among the highest virtues for any secretary-general of the United Nations."
Boutros-Ghali, who died on Tuesday at the age of 93, helped negotiate Egypt's landmark peace deal with Israel but then clashed with the United States when he served a single term as U.N. secretary-general.
The scion of a prominent Egyptian Christian political family, he was the first U.N. chief from the African continent, stepping into the post in 1992 at a time of dramatic world changes, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War and the beginning of a unipolar era dominated by the United States.
His five years at the world body's helm remain controversial. He worked to establish the U.N.'s independence, particularly from the United States, at a time when the United Nations was increasingly called on to step into crises with peacekeeping forces, with limited resources.
Some blame him for misjudgments in the failures to prevent genocides in Africa and the Balkans and mismanagement of reform in the world body.
Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report from the United Nations.