As condolences continue to pour in from across the world over the death of South African anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has also joined the chorus hailing the Nobel Peace Prize laureate as an "inspiration in the values of love and human brotherhood".
Assad, whose country is undergoing a bloody civil war for more than two and half years, mourned the death of Mandela in an official statement.
It read: "His history of struggle has become an inspiration to all the vulnerable peoples of the world, in the expectation that oppressors and aggressors will learn the lesson that in the end it is they who are the losers."
Assad's remarks have been welcomed with stinging criticism by opposition activists and critics saying the message is filled with irony.
What started as a peaceful uprising against Assad's regime in March 2011 gradually turned into one of the bloodiest civil wars killing at least 100,000.
Meanwhile, in South Africa, the authorities are preparing for the funeral of Mandela, who is fondly known by his clan name Madiba.
The state funeral is set to take place on 15 December while a public memorial will be held until then.
Special flights have also been arranged by South African authorities for mourners from across the world to take part.
US President Barack Obama is also set to attend the public memorial in the coming days.
"President Obama and the first lady will go to South Africa next week to pay their respects to the memory of Nelson Mandela and to participate in memorial events. We'll have further updates on timing and logistics as they become available," White House spokesperson Jay Carney said.
Schedule of Events
On 8 December (Sunday), an official day of prayer and reflection will be observed across South Africa.
On 10 December (Tuesday), a national mourning will take place in the Johannesburg football stadium.
From 11 to 13 December, Mandela's body will lie in state in Pretoria for a public memorial.
The state funeral will take place on 15 December (Sunday).
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