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Sharon lies in state ahead of funeral

The body of Ariel Sharon, Israel's former prime minister and general who has died aged 85, arrived yesterday at the country's parliament building in Jerusalem where it was to lie in state.

A state memorial is planned for today with the participation of Israeli and world leaders. US vice-president Joe Biden and former British prime minister Tony Blair will attend.

Afterwards, Mr Sharon's body will be taken by military convey for burial at his ranch.

One of Israel's most iconic and controversial figures, he had been in a coma for eight years after a devastating stroke incapacitated him at the peak of his political power.

Mr Sharon's career stretched across Israel's 65-year existence, and his life was intertwined with the country's history. As one of Israel's most famous generals, he was known for bold tactics and an occasional refusal to obey orders.

Historians credit him with helping turn the tide of the 1973 Mideast war when Arab armies launched a surprise attack on Israel on the solemn fasting day of Yom Kippur, causing large Israeli casualties. As a politician, he became known as "the bulldozer", a man contemptuous of his critics but capable of getting things done.

Mr Biden said he looked forward to the opportunity "to pay respects to the man and to pay tribute to the unshakeable partnership between the United States and Israel".