Leaders, others react to the death of Ariel Sharon

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In this May 16, 2004 photo, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pauses during a news conference in his Jerusalem office regarding education reform. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)

In this May 16, 2004 photo, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pauses during a news conference in his Jerusalem office regarding education reform. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)

Here is a selection of reactions from world leaders and others to the death of former Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who was both admired and despised for his bold style and hard-driving tactics.

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“When it was necessary to fight, he stood at the forefront of the divisions in the most sensitive and painful places, but he was a smart and realistic person and understood well that there is a limit in our ability to conduct wars.” — Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Sharon’s former deputy who took office after the 2006 stroke.

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President Barack Obama expressed his condolences to Sharon’s family and to Israelis “on the loss of a leader who dedicated his life to the state of Israel … We join with the Israeli people in honoring his commitment to his country.”

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“He wanted to erase the Palestinian people from the map … He wanted to kill us, but at the end of the day, Sharon is dead and the Palestinian people are alive.” — Tawfik Tirawi, who served as Palestinian intelligence chief when Sharon was prime minister.

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“After eight years, he is going in the same direction as other tyrants and criminals whose hands were covered with Palestinian blood.” — Khalil al-Haya, a leader in the Islamic militant group Hamas.

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“During his years in politics, it is no secret that there were times the United States had differences with him. But … you admired the man who was determined to ensure the security and survival of the Jewish State.” — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed “deep sorrow” over Sharon’s passing hailing him as a “brave fighter” who continued to act for Israel as a politician and prime minister.

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Sharon was “a brave soldier and a daring leader who loved his nation and his nation loved him.” — President Shimon Peres, a longtime friend and rival.

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“He was the most present and influential person in the country in the past two generations. — Yossi Sarid, a former opposition leader and rival of Sharon.

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Sharon “realized the reality and went for a very brave move that recognizes the fact that there is no choice but to separate from the Palestinians.” — Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog.

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“Ariel Sharon is one of the most significant figures in Israeli history and as prime minister he took brave and controversial decisions in pursuit of peace … Israel has today lost an important leader.” — British Prime Minister David Cameron.

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“What he did at the end of his path was extraordinary. … He took action in a way that is crucial to the future of the state of Israel, I mean the disengagement from Gaza.” — Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who lost a 2001 election to Sharon.

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“I was honored to know this man of courage and call him friend. He was a warrior for the ages and a partner in seeking security for the Holy Land and a better, peaceful Middle East.”— Former President George W. Bush, who was president while Sharon was prime minister.

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“I look forward to leading the U.S. delegation to his memorial service, to pay respects to the man and to pay tribute to the unshakeable partnership between the United States and Israel.” — Vice President Joe Biden

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“Sharon will be remembered for his political courage and determination to carry through with the painful and historic decision to withdraw Israeli settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip.” — Spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

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Before Sharon, the Likud and parties on the right would never have dreamed of land swapping. … That is a hugely important part of his legacy as it is still valid and active now in today’s negotiations.” — David Landau, author of “ARIK: The life of Ariel Sharon.”

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Russian President Vladimir Putin “highly praised Ariel Sharon’s personal qualities and his activities to protect Israel’s interests.” — The Kremlin.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel “is mourning with the Israeli people” for Sharon, who “took a historic step on the path to a deal with the Palestinians and a two-state solution.” — Steffen Seibert, Merkel’s spokesman.

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“He was a man of strong conviction who had a clear idea of what the future of his country should be and who fought for it with determination.” — EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

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“For those who believe in the ideal, he did a wonderful thing. … It is difficult to have peace without war.” — Gene Simmons, Israeli-born Kiss bassist.

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Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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