Czech President Vaclav Klaus and the widow of Vaclav Havel agreed to hold a state funeral Friday as citizens waited as long as three hours to pay their last respects to the anti-communist dissident playwright who became president.
The government declared a state of mourning beginning Wednesday and leading into the first state funeral in more than 30 years, Premier Petr Necas said Monday. European Union sessions in Brussels, Belgium, held a minute of silence to honor Havel, the first post-communist Czech head of state, who died Sunday. Czechs left thousands of candles and flowers on Wenceslas Square, the center of the 1989 Velvet Revolution.
"He was the symbol of what happened here in November 1989. He did a lot for the Czech Republic, for its transition to democracy, to the structures of the European Union," Necas said Sunday on state-run television. "He still had a lot to offer in politics as well as society."
Havel, who died in his sleep after a long illness, was an international icon for opposing totalitarian regimes in the former Soviet bloc and helped lead the country to democracy. He was president for almost 13 years.
Black flags fluttered at Prague's Hradcany Castle, the seat of the president's offices overlooking the capital, as Klaus and others signed a condolence book. Across town, hundreds of people with flowers lined up at the former St. Anna Church to view his remains. Havel's widow, Dagmar Havelova, laid red roses on the simple wood coffin.
Havel was president of Czechoslovakia from the end of 1989 until 1992. In 1993, he became president of the Czech Republic, which was founded after the split of Czechoslovakia into two countries, a move he opposed.
The former Czech leader, whose motto during the transition to democracy was "Love will triumph over lies and hatred," was frail and leaned on a cane in his last public appearance Dec. 10, when he greeted the Dalai Lama in Prague.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in a statement called Havel "an inspiration" to human rights defenders around the world, while singer Lou Reed, whose band the Velvet Underground had an influence on Havel, wrote on his website that the former president was a "true hero in a world bereft."