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World Leaders Mark Loss of Ariel Sharon

Many world leaders have paid tribute to Ariel Sharon's significant role in Israeli history, and his critics also are speaking out.

U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, sent their deepest condolences to Mr. Sharon's family and the people of Israel. They reaffirmed their "unshakable commitment" to Israel's security and to the goal of "two states living side-by-side in peace and security."

Israeli President Shimon Peres, a longtime friend and rival of Mr. Sharon, called him a "brave soldier and daring leader" who loved his nation that also loved him.

In one of the first comments after announcement of his predecessor's death Saturday at a hospital near Tel Aviv, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his "deep sorrow, and said Mr. Sharon's memory will live forever in the nation's heart.

Palestinian leaders denounced Mr. Sharon, whom they had strongly opposed throughout his public life. The radical Islamist Hamas faction that now controls Gaza called him a "tyrant," and the leader of the Fatah movement, Jibril Rajoub, called Mr. Sharon a "criminal" and expressed regret he was never taken before the International Criminal Court.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Mr. Sharon "a hero to his people, first as a soldier and then a statesman." He praised the former prime minister for the "political courage" he displayed in 2005, when Israel unilaterally withdrew its settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip.

French President François Hollande said Mr. Sharon was a "major actor in the history of his country." Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron said Israel has "lost an important leader."

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said he was looking forward to paying respects to Mr. Sharon by leading the U.S. delegation to his memorial service. House Speaker John Boehner called Mr. Sharon one of the "greatest warrior-statesmen in modern history" with an "undisputed" devotion to peace.

Secretary of State John Kerry said Mr. Sharon was prepared to make "tough decisions because he knew that his responsibility to his people was both to ensure their security and give every chance to the hope that they could live in peace." Kerry said he and others honor his legacy by working to achieve his goal of a strong, peaceful Israel.

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton and his wife, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said in a joint statement they were honored to work with Mr. Sharon, argue with him and watch him try to find the right path for his country.

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