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Former British Prime Minister Edward Heath Dies

Edward Heath
Former British Prime Minister Edward Heath has died at the age of 89. Mr. Heath is being recalled as the leader who brought Britain into the European Economic Community.

Edward Heath is being hailed by his fellow politicians. Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher says Britain has lost a "political giant." Prime Minister Tony Blair says Mr. Heath was "a man of great integrity."

Mr. Heath's former political secretary, Douglas Hurd, says his greatest accomplishment was to lead a reluctant Britain into closer ties with the rest of Europe.

"He got us into the European Union," he said. "I mean that is a huge step, a very difficult one, which I doubt would have happened without his particular kind of thoroughness and determination. That was an amazing achievement."

Other politicians from Mr. Heath's Conservative Party say his political views on Europe were shaped by his pre-World War Two contact with Adolf Hitler, and his concern that a divided Europe could again go to war.

Mr. Heath held office from 1970 to 1974, a period that saw him clash frequently with the trade union movement. A series of coal miner strikes and the global energy crisis led Mr. Heath to declare a three-day workweek in the winter of 1974. He then called a general election that was won by the opposition Labor Party led by Harold Wilson.

In 1975, the Conservatives ousted Mr. Heath and installed Margaret Thatcher as party leader. She went on to become prime minister in 1979.

As for Mr. Heath, he remained a member of parliament until 2001, though he increasingly devoted time to his passions of sailing and playing classical music on the piano.

Funeral services are planned for next Monday at the cathedral in his hometown of Salisbury.