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Invitations to Margaret Thatcher funeral going out to world leaders, politicians, celebrities

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LONDON - Invitations to Margaret Thatcher's funeral are going out to more than 2,000 celebrities, dignitaries, colleagues and friends of the late British leader — from former U.S. presidents to "Dynasty" star Joan Collins and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Invitations were being printed Thursday and will be mailed out on Friday, the government said.

Thatcher, who died Monday at the age of 87, will be given a funeral with military honours at St. Paul's Cathedral on Wednesday.

Though not officially a state funeral, it is the grandest such service seen in Britain since the death in 2002 of the Queen Mother Elizabeth.

Queen Elizabeth II will be among the mourners — the first time the monarch has attended a prime minister's funeral since the death of Winston Churchill in 1965.

The invitation list includes all surviving U.S. presidents, British politicians past and present, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

Prime Minister David Cameron's office said the list — drawn up by Thatcher's family, her Conservative Party and the government — includes representatives of 200 states and organizations with whom Britain has normal diplomatic relations.

Invitees include the ambassador of Argentina, with whom Britain, under Thatcher, fought a 1982 war over the Falkland Islands.

Most countries will be represented at the funeral by ambassadors or other officials. Downing St. said the only current and former world leaders invited were those who had a "close connection to Baroness Thatcher."

A representative of Nelson Mandela — whom Thatcher once called a terrorist — has also been invited.

Some of those figures most closely associated with her 1979-1990 tenure already have said they will not attend. Nancy Reagan, widow of U.S. President Ronald Reagan, will send a representative, and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev says poor health prevents him from coming to London.

Entertainment figures include Collins, Lloyd Webber and his sometime lyricist Tim Rice, novelist Frederick Forsyth, singer Shirley Bassey, "Top Gear" TV host Jeremy Clarkson and fashion designer Anya Hindmarch, who made some of Thatcher's famous handbags.

The dress code for the funeral calls for day dress, morning dress, dark suit or "full day ceremonial without swords."

The scale of the funeral — and the multimillion-pound cost — has drawn criticism. Thatcher is dividing opinion in death, much as her uncompromising free-market economic policies did in life.

But Cameron said "it is right to have a ceremonial funeral, with key elements of a state funeral, with the troops lining the route."

"I think people would find us a pretty extraordinary country if we didn't properly commemorate with dignity, with seriousness, but with also some fanfare ... the passing of this extraordinary woman," he told Sky News.

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