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World Leaders React to Polish President's Death

  • Tom Rivers

World leaders Saturday expressed their sorrow at the loss of Poland's president, his wife and a host of senior government officials in a plane crash in western Russia.

Deep felt condolences are pouring in from around the world to the tragic loss of life of President Kaczynski and his party on the plane that crashed just short of the runway at Smolensk airport in fog-shrouded conditions.

In a written statement, President Barack Obama said the loss was devastating to Poland, to the United States and to the world.

Mr. Obama expressed his sympathies in a phone call to Poland's prime minister.

He called Lech Kaczynski a distinguished statesman who was widely admired in the United States and he said there were heavy hearts across America.

In Britain, Prime Minister Gordon Brown paid tribute to the Polish president, calling him one of the defining actors in the country's modern political history. "I think the whole world will be saddened and in sorrow as a result of this tragic death in a plane crash of President Kaczynski and his wife Maria, and the party that were with them. I think we know the difficulties that Poland has gone through, the sacrifices that he himself has made as part of the Solidarity movement and we know the contribution he made to the independence and freedom of Poland," he said.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel called it a political and human tragedy for Poland. She said Mr. Kaczyski was a real lobbyist for his country, a country he loved.…She said he was a leader who was dedicated to the fight for Poland's freedom and Europe's freedom.

In France, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said it was shocking news. "It was a huge, an immense shock and of course I did address my condolences to the people of Poland, to the government and to my good friend, the minister of foreign affairs, Mr. Sikorski. And I called him of course, he told me that it was a fantastic sorrow and shock among all the Polish population," he said.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said it was a grave loss.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Mr. Kaczynski had served his country with distinction and conviction and was deservedly respected internationally.

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