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World Leaders Express Sympathy at Arafat's Death, Hope for Peace

Leaders around the world are expressing sympathy for the Palestinian people following the death of Yasser Arafat and hopes his passing could mark a turning point in efforts to bring about lasting peace in the Middle East.

Speaking in New York, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed his sympathy. He called Mr. Arafat the embodiment of Palestinian aspirations, but added that Mr. Arafat also accepted that the Palestinians would have to live peacefully next to the Israelis.

"But now that he's gone, I think the best legacy that his people can live for him is to engage constructively and peacefully with the international community, and the Israeli government and people, to make that dream, a dream of two states, living side-by-side, in peace, a reality. And I would urge that we all get to work, and really press for the achievement of that goal," Mr. Annan said.

That echoed remarks by President Bush, who, before Mr. Arafat died, pointed to renewed chances for peace in the Middle East.

"There will be an opening for peace, when leadership of the Palestinian people steps forward and says, 'help us build a democratic and free society.' When that happens, and I believe it is going to happen, because I believe all people desire to live in freedom, the United States of America will be more than willing to help build the institutions necessary for a free society to emerge, so the Palestinians can have their own state," Mr. Bush said.

President Bush subsequently issued a written statement Thursday, expressing his condolences to the Palestinian people over Mr. Arafat's death, which he called a significant moment in Palestinian history.

Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, said Mr. Arafat's death could bring about what he called "a historic turning point for the Middle East."

Mr. Sharon says Israel is a country that seeks peace and will continue efforts to reach an agreement with the Palestinians. He says the new Palestinian leadership must work toward stopping terrorism.

From Cairo, where a memorial service for Mr. Arafat is planned for Friday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak paid his tribute.

Mr. Mubarak offered Egypt's condolences to the Palestinian people. He said Mr. Arafat's death is a heavy loss for the Arab and Islamic nations.

Egypt, Jordan and Bangladesh are among the countries that will observe three days of mourning.

Other leaders around the world also have paid their respects.

In Asia, Chinese President Hu Jintao called Mr. Arafat a great friend of China, while Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi called Mr. Arafat a pioneer in the creation of a Palestinian state.

Indonesia, the nation with the greatest number of Muslims among its population, hailed Mr. Arafat as a hero. But in Australia, Prime Minister John Howard said history would judge Mr. Arafat harshly for failing to rein in militant groups.

Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf said Mr. Arafat's legacy will continue to inspire future generations, while President Abdul Kalam of India praised Mr. Arafat for devoting his life to his people.

European leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, expressed their condolences. The European Union pledged to work with the new Palestinian leadership toward Middle East peace.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair meets with President Bush in Washington, Friday. The British leader has called the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the single most pressing political problem in the world today, and is seeking U.S. support for reviving the stalled Middle East peace process.