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"We have lost a great leader, a great man," Ahmadinejad said after the ceremony.
"Hugo came from the people and he served the people."
Several Latin American leaders, including Cuban President Raul Castro, were invited to stand around the coffin.
European nations sent lower-level delegations while the US was represented by its charge d'affaires and two Democratic Party politicians.
Chavez's body will lie in state for seven more days and officials said his body will be embalmed and preserved "like Lenin" to rest in a glass casket in the military barracks.
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