Arafat death draws mixed world reaction
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.
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."
"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.