Accessibility links

Asia Has Mixed Response to Arafat's Death

Asian heads of state and Muslim leaders are marking the passing of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Thursday. In death as in life, the controversial leader is attracting a mixture of enthusiastic praise and vigorous denunciation.

Chinese President Hu Jintao called Yasser Arafat an outstanding politician fighting for a just cause in the Middle East. Mr. Arafat has been the symbol of the sometimes violent Palestinian struggle for an independent state for 40 years.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue made a statement hours after the Palestinian leader's death, Thursday. She says China has lost a great friend and ally and the president has sent a message of condolence.

In Indonesia, home to the world's largest Muslim community, religious leaders say Mr. Arafat's death is a blow to Muslims throughout the world.

Yasser Arafat was as well known for his terrorist actions as he was for winning the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, for agreeing to Palestinian self-rule.

The Secretary-General of Indonesia's most influential Muslim association, the Ulama Council, Din Syamsuddin says Mr. Arafat was an icon of courage and conviction. "Here in Indonesia he is symbol of struggle and independence because Yasser Arafat has spent his life for justice," he said.

Mr. Syamsuddin called on the Palestinian people to support a new leader as soon as possible.

This the first time the nascent Palestinian Authority is undergoing a leadership change.

In neighboring Malaysia, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi called Mr. Arafat's death a turning point in the history of the Middle East. Mr. Badawi urged Palestinians to remain calm during the transition to new leadership.

Massoud Khan, a spokesman for Pakistan's Foreign Ministry, says Mr. Arafat would be remembered as a peacemaker for his part in the so-called road map to peace in the Middle East. "And we hope that after his demise there would be a smooth transition and succession in Palestine and there'd be renewed efforts to implement the road map," said Mr. Khan.

New Zealand's Foreign Minister Phil Goff said Mr. Arafat should be acknowledged for his tireless work as an advocate for the Palestinian people. But he also said the military chief never made the crucial leap from resistance leader to national statesman.

Australia's prime minister went one step further saying history would be a harsh judge of Mr. Arafat's work as Palestinian leader. John Howard says Mr. Arafat failed to embrace a peaceful settlement with Israel in 2000 and could have done more to stop terrorism in the Middle East.