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UN assembly holds moment of silence for Kim Jong-il

The U.N. General Assembly granted a request from North Korea and held a moment of silence on Thursday for Kim Jong-il, the country's former leader who died on Saturday.
North Koreans make a call of condolence for deceased leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang
North Koreans make a call of condolence for deceased leader Kim Jong-il on Wednesday in Pyongyang in this picture released by the North's official KCNA news agency early Thursday.© Kcna Kcna / Reuters / REUTERS
/ Source: NBC News and news services

The U.N. General Assembly granted a request from North Korea and held a moment of silence on Thursday for Kim Jong-il, the country's former leader who died on Saturday, though Western envoys said they would boycott it.

Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, president of the 193-nation General Assembly, saying he was following existing practice, led the moment of silence before an assembly meeting at 3 p.m. EST.

He offered condolences to the people of North Korea.

North Korea's U.N. mission made a similar request to the U.N. Security Council, though Western diplomats said it was rejected.

"We didn't think it would be appropriate," a diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Several Western diplomats said Pyongyang's request for Kim to be honored was highly unusual. They voiced surprise that Nassir had granted it and added that their delegations would most likely boycott the moment of silence in the assembly.

Speaking at a news conference earlier, Nassir cited "protocol" as the reason for agreeing to the request from North Korea, a full U.N. member.

Pyongyang is under Security Council sanctions due to Kim Jong-il's nuclear weapons program, which Western officials say ate up huge sums of money that could have been used to help feed North Korea's starving population.

An official at the Czech Republic's U.N. mission said the Czechs did not request a similar moment of silence for Vaclav Havel, the playwright-turned-dissident who died on Sunday.

The former Czech president was the leader of Czechoslovakia's 1989 "Velvet Revolution," in which he oversaw the peaceful transition from communism to democracy.

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