Home>News Center>World

Arafat death draws mixed world reaction
Updated: 2004-11-11 22:08

Tears and gunshots, praise and condemnation marked the death of Yasser Arafat, whose fight for the Palestinian cause made him a towering and controversial figure on the world stage.

Arafat's death at a French hospital of an undisclosed illness was announced just as the sun was rising in the Middle East. In the teeming Palestinian refugee camps of Ein el-Hilweh and Mieh Mieh in southern Lebanon, burning tires spewed heavy black smoke and guerrillas fired into the air, rites of mourning that expressed frustration as well as sadness.

Houses on Ein el-Hilweh's streets and alleys were bedecked with Arafat's pictures, Palestinian flags and black banners. Arafat has strong loyalties in the camp, but also fierce rivals. Ein el-Hilweh, known for its lawlessness, is home to about 75,000 Palestinian refugees and their descendants who were displaced by war since the 1948 creation of Israel, and who had pinned hopes on Arafat's promises he would lead them home.

At Cairo University, the campus where Arafat earned an engineering degree decades ago, one student was moved to tears.

"Every leader has both mistakes and accomplishments," said 19-year-old Nadia, who gave only her first name. "I think he was a very kind person. His people loved him very much."

Egypt, which was to give Arafat a state funeral on Friday, and Jordan announced three days' mourning.

Egypt called him a "historic leader" who strove for "peace, security and stability." State-run Jordan radio and television replaced regular programming with recitations of Quranic verses interrupted only by hourly news bulletins.

Condolences came from as far away as China, where President Hu Jintao said Arafat was "an outstanding leader of the Palestinian cause."

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi praised Arafat's efforts on behalf of peace and his people, citing his signing of the 1993 Israel-PLO accord that gave him control of most of Gaza Strip and 27 percent of West Bank.

"Yasser Arafat spent his entire life for the Palestinian cause. We pray that his mission is completed after his death," Pakistani Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told The Associated Press from Saudi Arabia, where he was performing the Muslim pilgrimage.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder credited Arafat with striving to lead the Palestinians to independence, regretting that "it was not granted to Yasser Arafat to complete his life's work."

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Palestinians had suffered a heavy loss, and his Foreign Ministry called for the international community, Israel and the Palestinians to redouble peace efforts.

French President Jacques Chirac, who had visited Arafat days before his death, called him a "man of courage and conviction who, for 40 years, has incarnated the Palestinians' combat for recognition of their national rights."

Praise also came from the European Union, the Arab League and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who said Arafat had "expressed and symbolized in his person the national aspirations of the Palestinian people."

Even Arafat's critics acknowledged his death was "a significant moment in Palestinian history," as President Bush put it. Bush, who had accused Arafat of blocking peace with Israel, expressed condolences to the Palestinian people.

"We hope that the future will bring peace and the fulfillment of their aspirations for an independent, democratic Palestine that is at peace with its neighbors," added Bush, the first U.S. president to publicly call for an independent Palestinian state.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, expressing his condolences to Arafat's family and to the Palestinian people and noting that Arafat was a Nobel Peace laureate, also looked ahead.

The "goal of a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel is one that we must continue to work tirelessly to achieve," Blair said in a statement read by a spokeswoman.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said history would judge Arafat harshly. Arafat could have helped secure Middle East peace by accepting a deal in 2000 that would have resulted in the Israelis "agreeing to about 90 percent of what the Palestinians had wanted," Howard said. Howard said he also found it hard to believe that Arafat could not have done more to restrain terrorists.

  Today's Top News     Top World News

Nation likely to be 3rd largest trading power



Nutritional imbalance plagues people



Mine blast kills 33, injures 6 in Henan



Coal mining: Most deadly job in China



Shen and Zhao win Cup of China



Consumer price remains stable in October


  Police lose control of Mosul amid uprising
  Arafat buried in Chaotic scenes in West Bank
  U.S. may use Iraq meeting to engage Iran
  Bush vows second-term push for Palestinian state
  Dutch to withdraw troops from Iraq in March
  Haiti PM orders arrest warrant against Aristide
  Go to Another Section  
  Story Tools  
  Related Stories  
Palestinians mourn death of Arafat
Sharon: Arafat's death may revive peace
US sees chance of peace hinging on Arafat successor
Passing of Arafat draws mixed reactions
Palestinian leaders to transfer Arafat powers
Hu sends condolences on Arafat's death
Arafat during his stay in Lebanon
  News Talk  
  Are the Republicans exploiting the memory of 9/11?