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Current, Former World Leaders Honor John Paul

As nine days of mourning begin in Vatican City, praise and gratitude for Pope John Paul's legacy continues to flow from leaders around the world.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the pope was an outstanding figure whose spiritual and political heritage will hold a major place in world history. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev called him the number one humanist on the planet.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas praised him for defending Palestinian freedom and independence, and Israel's Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom says the pope built bridges of brotherhood between all faiths.

Former Polish president and Solidarity leader Lech Walesa credited the pope with ending communism in Eastern Europe.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth honored him for promoting Christian unity among all denominations.

Former U.S. President George H. W. Bush said the pope's strength, determination and leadership will be missed by a troubled world. Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who converted to Catholicism years ago, says the pope was the world's moral voice who led with conviction and advocated absolute truth.

Funeral plans for the pope are still pending, but authorities in Rome are preparing for an influx of up to 2 million people.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.