The death of King Hussein: `You could feel the greatness in him'

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The Independent Online
WORLD LEADERS mourned King Hussein yesterday, paying tribute to a courageous visionary who pursued peace in a volatile region. Many sent personal messages of condolence reflecting the warm regard in which they held him and their sorrow at his passing.

"I mourn the loss of a partner and a friend," said President Bill Clinton. Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, spoke of his "deep and personal sense of grief" at the death of a man "whose true majesty found expression in a lifelong struggle to bring peace".

In Britain, the tributes were led by Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, who described King Hussein as "a man of rare vision, integrity and courage, whose leadership over nearly 50 years did so much for Jordan, its people and the region".

The flag over Buckingham Palace flew at half-mast as a mark of respect to a man regarded as a special friend to Britain. The Queen and the Royal Family were said to be "deeply saddened".

The Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, sent a message to King Hussein's son and successor, King Abdullah, telling him: "Your father... was invaluable to the formation of a new image of the Middle East, free of stereotypes of confrontation and enmity".

In Israel, the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, showered praise on the late King, saying: "There was no one more gracious, considerate and kind, no one... more capable of understanding and empathy." And in a moving statement, Leah Rabin, widow of the assassinated Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, said: "As soon as you met him, you felt his courage and the greatness in him. A great man, with a great heart and with great modesty."

Elsewhere in the Middle East, reaction was more muted. The Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, described King Hussein as "an Arab leader who dedicated his thoughts and life to the service of his nation's causes".

The Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, confined himself to brief condolences. In Syria, Jordan's powerful neighbour and critic, Foreign Minister Farouk Sharaa said: "We are sad for his absence and we hope that King Abdullah will be a good replacement.

Iraq's most influential newspaper offered sympathy but warned that Israel might try to to divide its territory. Babel, owned by President Saddam Hussein's eldest son, Uday, said "Our hearts are with our brave people in Jordan who we hope will overcome this ordeal."

Leaders of European nations including France, Spain, Italy, Germany and the Czech Republic paid tribute. President Thomas Klestil of Austria told his widow, Queen Noor, that Austria has lost "a great friend, whose personal solidarity with our country will always be remembered and appreciated".

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