Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cut short a visit to the United States where he was due to attend the funeral of boxer Muhammad Ali and returned to Turkey.
Erdogan took part in Thursday’s Islamic funeral prayers in Louisville, Kentucky, but left before Friday’s interfaith service at which he was originally due to speak.
Some Turkish media reported that Erdogan left after he was told he had been dropped from the list of speakers and that he would not be able to lay a cloth covering brought from Islam’s most sacred mosque in Mecca on Muhammad Ali’s coffin.
The Turkish leader, who travelled to the US with his wife Emine Erdogan and other family members as well as two of his cabinet ministers, visited the Muhammad Ali Center and praised Ali in an article written for the Bloomberg news website.
The group travelling with Erdogan included Turkey’s top Islamic cleric, Mehmet Görmez.
Reportedly Erdogan had wanted Görmez, the head of Turkey’s religious affairs directorate, to read some verses from the Koran at the service but that was refused by the organisers who said that Ali himself had carefully planned the event.