MOSCOW: The funeral ceremony for the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il started Wednesday in Pyongyang, reported the local news agency.

The first phase of the ceremony began at 10:00 am (0100 GMT) in the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where the late strongman's body is lying in state in a glass coffin, the agency said.

A funeral procession with the coffin is expected to drive through the streets of Pyongyang as part of the proceedings, for which no programme was made public.

Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans were expected to gather on Pyongyang's chilly streets to bid a final farewell to their leader.

Foreign delegations were not invited to the funeral of Kim, who died of a heart attack on December 17 at the age of 69.

He has been replaced by his son, Kim Jong-Un, who is in his late 20s.

Mourning will officially end Thursday with a nationwide memorial service including a three-minute silence at noon. Trains, ships and other vehicles will sound their hooters.