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Monday, May 28, 2007

Malawi mourning first lady
The Associated Press

BLANTYRE, Malawi: Ethel Mutharika, wife of Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika, died Monday after battling an unspecified illness, the presidency said.

A brief statement released by the chief secretary of the president, Bright Msaka, confirmed that Ethel Mutharika had died in the capital, Lilongwe.

"The president is deeply saddened by the death of his longtime wife who has been beside him since they met in the early '60s. The State House is shocked by the death of our mother whose guidance we deeply relied upon," the statement said.

The statement did not give the cause of death or her age, but the reserved woman who seldom made public appearances was said to be in her 60s and suffering from an unspecified cancer.

Funeral details were still to be announced, but the Ministry of Information said a month of mourning would be observed during which flags at government buildings would be flown at half staff.

The speaker of parliament, Louis Chimango, interrupted the house's budget session to announce the news.

"On behalf of parliament, I express my deep condolences to the president and the first family in this trying moment," he said.

Zimbabwean-born Ethel Mutharika was the head of a foundation that bore her name and helped poor women in income-generating activities.

She is survived by her husband and four children

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