ADDIS ABABA, September 2 (Xinhua) -- Ethiopia on Sunday conducted an official state funeral for the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi who passed away on Aug. 20 due to sudden infection while recovering at a hospital abroad.
The late Premier was laid to rest at Holy Trinity Church in Addis Ababa, capital of the Eastern African state, following a ceremony that lasted for a half-day at Meskel Square in the presence of heads of states, senior government officials and representatives of different countries, including Hui Liangyu, Chinese Special Envoy and Vice Premier, as well as ambassadors, prominent figures and tens of thousands of Ethiopians.
About 60,000 representatives of Ethiopians were at the service at the square while Ethiopians, who have been deeply mourning the late Premier, following the state funeral on TV and large outdoor screens.
Speaking at the grand square in Addis Ababa, Hailemariam Desalegn, Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister, said Meles was a hero leader, who has led the country to the point it has reached today, new chapter of renaissance with his great and wise leadership.
The late Premier was a rare gem in his quality of leadership, said Hailemariam, adding that he was a man who fought not only for the renaissance of his people but also for all Africans.
"We have lost a great and heroic leader, a man who had the vision of our renaissance and laid the plans to implement it. These encompass the activities of the members of our organization and leadership and of entire people. I have no doubt that we will all implement these great plans and ambitions," he said.
"Our beloved PM Meles Zenawi may have departed from us in the flesh, but spirit will always live with us in all our Struggles. I have no doubt that his life and his actions throughout his life will continue to remain an inspiration for us. In this conviction, we believe the details of PM Meles's life and major milestones of his career will be a treasure for the generations to come and for researchers and historians," he stated.
He also noted that it has been decided to build a center here in Addis Ababa to provide a home for all that he has left behind.
It will serve as a museum and a research center for study his life and work and provide an indissoluble and permanent memorial for his life and achievements, said Hailemariam.
In her remarks on the occasion, Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, hailed the late Premier selfless and tireless, and totally dedicated to his work.
From all PM Meles's admirable qualities, above all was his world-class mind, said Rice.
Rice said Meles was a talented and vital leader.
"We gathered to mark a profoundly sorrowful loss for Ethiopia, for Africa, and for the entire world, said Rice.
"On behalf of President Obama, the U.S. Government and the American people I wish to extend our deepest condolences and heartfelt sympathy for the untimely passing of PM Meles Zenawi," said Rice.
"As we join you in mourning we affirm our deep respect for and solidarity with the proud citizens of Ethiopia, " she said.
"We all deeply feel unfair to lose such a talented and vital leader so soon," said Rice.
President Jacob Zuma of South Africa stated that under the leadership of the late Prime Minister, Ethiopia has been able to register a double digit economic growth.
Zuma commended Meles's contribution to conquer poverty not only in Ethiopia but also in Africa.
"The 20th of August, 2012 was a sad day on the calendar of the African Union (AU) and Africa as you lost one of the greatest sons of the continent, H.E. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. This is a painful period for the people of Ethiopia to lose such a young leader, a patriot and a visionary," said Zuma.
He noted that the late Premier of Ethiopia played significant role in regional and continental peace and stability.
"As an African leader we are proud of Meles Zenawi, " said the president.
Goodluck Jonathan, president of Nigeria, said Meles's contribution to development and stability at national and continental level would be remembered for ever.
The president said that he was a dedicated leader and that he remarkably contributed to economic development not only to Ethiopia but for all Africa.
He also lauded Meles's remarkable contribution to the continent by being Africa's spokesperson on climate and other issues, and through his chairmanship of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee.
Azeb Mesfin, wife of the late Premier, was also speaking on the occasion of the state funeral at Meskel Square.
"We are gathered here at Meskel Square today to pay homage to Meles. Today is a very bitter and sorrowful day for the whole country, for me and also for my children as we are here to pay homage to Meles once and for all. It is my dark day and for my children, heavy and bitter sorrow," said Azeb.
Ethiopia has been bitterly mourning the late prime minister who passed at the age of 57, and who survived a wife and three children.