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Obama will attend funeral of Peres in Jerusalem

Obama hails Peres as friend who 'never gave up on the possibility of peace'
President will lead US delegation to Jerusalem to participate in funeral (AFP)

US President Barack Obama will join other world leaders in attending the funeral of Israeli elder statesman Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, the White House said on Wednesday.

The president "will lead the US delegation to Jerusalem to participate in the funeral," the White House said. He is to depart for Israel on Thursday and return after the ceremony on Friday.

Obama hailed Peres as a friend who "never gave up on the possibility of peace".

"There are few people who we share this world with who change the course of human history, not just through their role in human events, but because they expand our moral imagination and force us to expect more of ourselves," Obama said in a statement.

"My friend Shimon was one of those people."

Including Obama, several other heads of state plan to witness the memorial. These leaders include UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Peres will receive a state burial at a ceremony on Friday at Mount Herzel Cemetery in Jerusalem.

Former US president Bill Clinton, who helped usher in the Oslo peace accords of the 1990s and is also attending the funeral, said: "The Middle East has lost a fervent advocate for peace and reconciliation.

"I’ll never forget how happy he was 23 years ago when he signed the Oslo accords on the White House lawn, heralding a more hopeful era in Israeli-Palestinian relations."

Peres held nearly every major office in the country, serving twice as prime minister and also as president, a mostly ceremonial role, from 2007 to 2014.

He won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for his role in negotiating the Oslo accords, which envisioned an independent Palestinian state.

Born in Poland in 1923, Peres emigrated to what was then British-mandated Palestine when he was 11.

He joined the Zionist project and met David Ben-Gurion, who would become his mentor and Israel's first prime minister.

Peres became director general of the nascent defence ministry at just 29.

Beyond his accomplishments in the public eye, he was also seen as a driving force in the development of Israel's undeclared nuclear programme.

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