Spain's political world paid a final tribute Monday to former Prime Minister Adolfo Suarez at a state funeral presided over by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia with many foreign dignitaries in attendance.

The current administration, leaders of the main political parties and former premiers Felipe Gonzalez, Jose Maria Aznar and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero gathered Monday with the children, grandchildren and other relatives of Suarez at a solemn funeral in Madrid's Almudena Cathedral.

The king and queen, Crown Prince Felipe and his wife, Princess Letizia, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the son of the late statesman, Adolfo Suarez Illana, greeted the foreign guests before the funeral began.

Suarez, who led Spain's first democratic government after the end of the 1939-1975 Franco dictatorship, died March 23 of complications from a degenerative neurological condition. He was 81.

"He searched for and practiced in an unrelenting, generous way the reconciliation of all the most sensitive sectors of political and social life of a Spain that, with its young people, sought to move beyond the civil war forever, beyond the deeds and attitudes that caused it and could cause it again," Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela said in his homily before the thousand people attending the state funeral.

Among the foreign representatives were European Commission President Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane and British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Also present were Argentine Vice President Amado Boudou and Colombian former President Alvaro Uribe.

The United States delegation was led by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, while that of Cuba was headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Alberto Moreno.

Suarez, who held important posts in the Franco regime, was chosen by King Juan Carlos to dismantle the old political system in 1976 and create a democratic government.

Suarez's government enacted laws protecting basic freedoms and legalizing political parties, including the Communists, a move that created enemies for the premier in some sectors of the traditional right and in the army.

The various parties worked to draft and ratify the 1978 Spanish Constitution, which is still in effect today.

Suarez led the Union of the Democratic Center to victory in the June 1977 elections and again in 1979.

He stepped down in January 1981, a month before Civil Guards and military officers disrupted the swearing-in of his successor, Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo, as part of an attempted coup that was ultimately thwarted by King Juan Carlos.

In 2008, Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia presented Adolfo Suarez with the Order of the Golden Fleece, Spain's highest honor. EFE