Volcanic ash may force delay in Polish funeral
Warsaw: A huge ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano that has caused the closure of airports across northern Europe may force a delay in Sunday's funeral for Poland's President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, an official in the presidential administration said on Friday.
US President Barack Obama and dozens of other world leaders are due to attend the funeral at Krakow's Wawel cathedral in southern Poland. On Friday, Krakow airport was one of only two in Poland still open.
"If this (volcanic ash) could affect events and if some participants are not able to arrive, then such an option (delay) could be considered," Jacek Sasin, an official in the president's chancellery, told RMF FM radio.
Kaczynski, his wife and scores of senior Polish officials were killed in a plane crash last Saturday, plunging Poland into deep mourning.
The White House said late on Thursday Obama's weekend trip to Poland was expected to go ahead despite the ash, but US authorities were keeping an eye on things.
"It's something that we are keeping an eye on. Right now, our schedule is still on. We have every intention of making it to Poland," Deputy White House Press Secretary Bill Burton told reporters.
He said he had spoken to US Air Force officials, adding: "They felt confident that they'll be able to make that trip, but it's something we're watching and obviously cognisant of."
The volcanic ash cloud has caused huge disruption of air traffic across Europe, leaving hundreds of thousands of passengers stranded. It was not known how long the affected airports, including Warsaw, might have to remain closed.
Volcanic ash contains tiny particles of glass and pulverised rock that can damage engines and airframes.
Polish authorities had intended to fly the coffins of the First Couple to Krakow on Saturday afternoon after a planned memorial service in Warsaw. They are currently on public view in the presidential palace.
Apart from Obama, Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Britain's Prince Charles, Spain's King Juan Carlos and many other heads of state and government and royalty were due to attend the funeral.