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Beijing: Chairman Mao wanted to be cremated

Beijing has revealed that Chinese leader Mao Tse-tung, whose body lies in a crystal sarcophagus in Tiananmen Square, really wanted to be cremated.

But when he died in September 1976, the ruling Politburo startled his doctors and caused immense medical problems by deciding that his body should be preserved in a mausoleum.

A candid account of these events, and of the makeshift measures adopted to put Mao on display, was published Thursday on the Web site of the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party.

The decision to preserve Mao's body for posterity was taken by his immediate successor, Hua Guofeng, who was seeking to remold himself in Mao's image. But the decision came too late from a medical perspective, the paper says.

The vital organs should have been removed and the arteries and veins flushed out within two hours of death. Instead, Mao's body was placed in formaldehyde and other preserving fluids so it would remain in reasonable shape until the memorial service.

"This was first and foremost a political task, but it needed to be carried out by medical personnel," said Dr. Wu Jieping, head of the team set up to preserve the body, on whose memoirs the article is based. "We had to succeed: Failure was not allowed."

After a year of painstaking work, the problem was solved by a dialectical formula. Known as the "integration of dry and wet treatment," it is still used today.

The visible parts of the body are surrounded by a dry atmosphere while it is on view in its casket. But the parts covered by clothing are suffused in liquid, which the public cannot see.

At the end of each showing, the body is lowered into a container maintained at a low temperature. Once a year, the face and hands are completely moisturized.

Elsewhere . . .

ISRAELIS, PALESTINIANS MEET: Negotiators for Israel and the Palestinians tried to resolve a dispute over implementing a U.S.-brokered peace deal, announcing no progress in the Gaza Strip meeting but promising to meet today.

KASHMIR VIOLENCE: Suspected militants attacked an army camp in India's northern Kashmir region, killing at least two soldiers and injuring 14 others. The Mansbal camp is 20 miles northeast of Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu-Kashmir state.

SCHOOL YEAR DELAYED: Because of a strike that has lasted almost four months, Mexico's main university has delayed the start of the school year indefinitely for most students. Striking students took over buildings at Latin America's largest university April 20 to protest plans to raise tuition from a symbolic 2 cents to $160 a year. The university has backed off the increase, but students claim other demands have not been met.

HOLY SITE PLANS: Jordan plans to upgrade and reconstruct a holy site it believes is the place Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist roughly 2,000 years ago, an official said. The site lies on the east bank of the Jordan River, 27 miles west of Amman.

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