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Global tributes for Thatcher

By Agencies in London | China Daily | Updated: 2013-04-10 08:14

Global tributes for Thatcher

A newsstand with the portrait of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in Sydney on Tuesday. Daniel Munoz / Reuters

Clinton, Gorbachev, Kohl praise fearlessness, fierce determination

Love her or loathe her, one thing is beyond dispute: Margaret Thatcher transformed Britain.

As flags were flown at half-staff at Buckingham Palace, The House of Parliament and Downing Street for the "Iron Lady", praise for Thatcher and her leadership poured in from around the world.

Thatcher died of a stroke on Monday in London aged 87.

Mikhail Gorbachev, Helmut Kohl and Bill Clinton were among the former friends and foes who joined in tributes to Thatcher, praising her fearlessness and fierce determination.

She was a polarizing figure in Britain and beyond, but foreign leaders were unanimous in acknowledging her place in 20th-century history, with US President Barack Obama mourning a "true friend of America".

Former German chancellor Kohl, considered the father of Germany's 1990 reunification, said he "greatly valued Margaret Thatcher for her love of freedom, her incomparable openness, honesty and straightforwardness".

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Thatcher changed history for women by opening the door to females taking high-powered leadership roles.

Flowers from admirers began piling up outside Thatcher's London home soon after her death was announced, but left-wingers quickly began planning jubilant parties, proving that the late premier was as divisive in death as she was in life.

In Glasgow and the south London neighborhood of Brixton, enemies of the late leader held small street parties to celebrate her death, with some holding placards stating, "Rejoice - Thatcher is dead".

Britain's coalminers were among the fiercest of her foes - and for one senior mining official marking his birthday on Monday, her death was the icing on his cake.

"I'm having a drink to it right now," said David Hopper of the National Union of Mineworkers.

Thatcher's government crushed a year-long miners' strike in 1985 and forced them to accept sweeping pit closures, in one of the bitterest episodes in British industrial history.

Bitter reactions were also heard in Argentina where Thatcher is remembered as the British leader who launched the 1982 war over the disputed Falkland Islands, (called Malvinas Islands by Argentina).

While right-wingers have credited her with hauling Britain out of the economic doldrums, the left accuses her of dismantling traditional industry, and claim her reforms helped unpick the fabric of society.

Gerry Adams, leader of the Sinn Fein Republican Party, said she had played a shameful role in the troubles in Northern Ireland.

But most reaction to her death - at least from leaders abroad - was positive.

In Brussels, European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso paid tribute to Thatcher's contributions to the growth of the European Union, despite her deep skepticism over increasing ties with the continent.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak described her as a formidable figure on the world stage, adding that she inspired many with her strong leadership and sense of conviction.

Among her contemporaries, former Soviet leader Gorbachev, who held frequent meetings with Thatcher in the 1980s as the Cold War drew to a close, said she will go down in history for her commitment and resolve.

"Margaret Thatcher was a great politician and a bright individual. She will go down in our memory and in history," said the Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Thatcher's US colleagues of the time also described her as a towering figure who helped change the course of the previous century.

Nancy Reagan, wife of late US president Ronald Reagan, said, "Ronnie and Margaret were political soulmates, committed to freedom..."

Former president Clinton hailed her as an iconic stateswoman who lived a remarkable life as she broke barriers, defied expectations, and led her country.

There was praise, too, from Hollywood, with US actress Meryl Streep, who won an Oscar for playing Thatcher in the 2011 movie The Iron Lady, calling her a trailblazer for women.

"Margaret Thatcher was a pioneer, willingly or unwillingly, for the role of women in politics," Streep said.


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