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Hillary Clinton to Attend Funeral


EDGARTOWN, Mass. — First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will attend Princess Diana's funeral in recognition of the Clintons' personal relationship with her and their admiration for her humanitarian work, the White House said Tuesday.

"She will not be representing the government officially, but she will certainly take the condolences of her husband, the president, and we fully expect the American people will believe that she will be passing along the American public's condolences," White House spokesman Joe Lockhart told reporters on Martha's Vineyard, where the first family is vacationing.

The first lady received a personal invitation Tuesday from Diana's family, the Spencers, as well as from the British royal family, Lockhart said.

President Clinton was not invited to the Saturday funeral because of the unofficial nature of the service, Lockhart said. Neither the U.S. government nor other foreign governments will send official delegations, because it will not be a state funeral, he said.

The only other U.S. government official known to be attending the service is William J. Crowe, the ambassador to Britain and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The decision for Mrs. Clinton to attend the funeral was made after consultations involving the White House, the U.S. Embassy, the royal family and the Spencer family.

The first lady plans to arrive in London on Saturday morning and leave soon after the funeral, which will be held at Westminster Abbey. The president is expected to remain on Martha's Vineyard to complete his three-week vacation.

Lockhart said the two women's relationship was close because of the "confluence of interests between the first lady and the late Princess Diana," particularly their mutual interest in helping children and people suffering from breast cancer and AIDS.

In a condolence letter to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Clinton said: "We fondly recall her last visit to the White House in June when she met with Hillary. The British people, indeed all of us, have lost a friend and a strong voice for those less fortunate."

Other condolence letters, which were sent by diplomatic cable to Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and Diana's family, were not made public.

Although she was no longer an official member of the royal family, Diana had received regal treatment during visits to the White House both earlier this summer and in September 1996.

A year ago, Mrs. Clinton hosted an elegant breakfast in the White House East Room to launch a fund-raising drive to fight breast cancer. Diana was honorary chairwoman of the effort.

During the event, Mrs. Clinton praised Diana for her humanitarian efforts. "She is a woman who has had a tireless commitment to the homeless, AIDS, cancer, leprosy and other health issues, and we are so pleased that she is lending her support to this continuing fight against breast cancer," the first lady said.

On her latest trip to Washington, on June 18, Diana met with Mrs. Clinton during a hush-hush visit to the White House. She was in Washington to endorse an effort to bring about a worldwide ban on land mines and heighten public awareness of the devastation they cause.

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