The body of president Michael Sata has arrived back on Zambian soil, ahead of a state funeral for the 77-year-old leader who died in hospital after a long illness.

Sata died on Tuesday while undergoing treatment in London's private King Edward VII hospital for an unspecified condition.

Mourners, some carrying pictures of Sata, gathered at the main Lusaka airport before the arrival of the plane. Two former Zambian presidents, Kenneth Kaunda and Rupiah Banda, also attended.

On the tarmac will be a guard of honour, traditional, religious and civic  leaders, as well as a host of cabinet ministers, former presidents and foreign diplomats.

Security forces were on hand to escort a vehicle carrying Sata's body to a conference center, where family, officials and the public will view the casket in coming days. The burial is scheduled for November 11.

For months, officials in the southern African nation repeatedly denied that Sata was sick, despite several trips abroad for medical help.

Fresh elections to pick a new president must be held within three months of Sata's death. Scott is not expected to run.

The public will be allowed to view the body from Sunday until November 9, and parliament will host a thanksgiving ceremony on November 10.

Books of condolences have been opened at government offices in the capital, in the provinces and at Zambian embassies abroad.

Sata will be buried at Embassy Park cemetery, near government offices in Lusaka's Long Acres suburb.

The graveyard is reserved for heads of state and two of Zambia's former leaders - Frederick Chiluba and Levy Mwanawasa - are buried there.

Source: AFP And AP