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Israelis, World Leaders React To Arafat Death

11 November 2004 -- World leaders have been reacting to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's death.

Israeli President Moshe Katsav issued a statement saying that the death of Arafat can constitute the start of a new chapter of relations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Shimon Peres, who shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with Arafat for the Oslo accords, said Arafat's death has ended an era, for good or bad. Peres said Arafat's biggest mistake was turning to terrorism, and his greatest achievements came when he tried to build peace.

Israeli Justice Minister Yosef Lapid blamed Arafat for the growth of global terrorism and the failure to achieve peace in the Middle East. Lapid said he "hated" Arafat for the deaths of Israelis.

U.S. President George W. Bush expressed the United States' condolences to the Palestinian people and said Arafat's death is a significant moment in Palestinian history. Bush said he hopes the future will bring peace and fulfillment of the Palestinian people's aspirations for the creation of an independent and democratic Palestine at peace with its neighbors.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Arafat had led Palestinians to a "historic acceptance" of the need for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians. Blair said peace in the Middle East must be the international community's highest priority. He pledged that Britain will work with the United States and European Union to help the parties reach a fair and durable settlement.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Arafat's death was a heavy loss for the Palestinian leadership and all Palestinians.

Russian Orthodox Partiarch Alexii II hailed Arafat for being the first Arab leader who responded to the call for peace talks in the Holy Land.

French President Jacques Chirac said Arafat had been a man of courage and conviction who embodied the Palestinian struggle for a state. Chirac, in a written statement, extended the friendship of the French people to Palestinians and said France remained committed to the creation of a Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Arafat would be remembered for leading Palestinians to accept the principle of peaceful co-existence between Israel and a future Palestinian state.