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World leaders mourn Margaret Thatcher's death

By Aditi Khanna
April 08, 2013 21:44 IST
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Britain's first woman Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher may have divided opinion during her lifetime but her death i8n London on Friday attracted a unanimous outpouring of tributes across the globe and the country.

"It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother Baroness Thatcher died peacefully following a stroke this morning," Lord Bell, her spokesman said.

Prime Minister David Cameron led the tributes to his former Conservative party leader on what he described as a "sad day for our country" as news of the 87-year-old's death from a stroke broke.

"It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Lady Thatcher. We have lost a great leader, a great prime minister and a great Briton. She was the greatest British peacetime prime minister," said Cameron, who received the news while in Madrid for a meeting with Spanish Prime Minster Mariano Rajoy and has now cut short his visit to return to Downing Street.

"With the passing of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, the world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend," Obama said in a statement mourning the loss of Thatcher.

"As a grocer's daughter who rose to become Britain's first female prime minister, she stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can't be shattered," Obama said.

She was dubbed 'The Iron Lady' by the Russians after she made a speech containing a scathing attack on the Soviet Union.

"Margaret Thatcher was a great politician and a bright individual. She will go down in our memory and in history," former leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev said in a statement released by his foundation.

Thatcher had referred to Gorbachev a leader the West "could do business with", as he laid the foundations for an end to the Soviet era. "Thatcher was a politician whose words carried great weight," Gorbachev said, adding that her death came as "sad news".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised the 'Iron Lady', saying that she was "an extraordinary leader in the global politics of her time".

European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso praised Thatcher for her "contributions" to the growth of the European Union, despite her reservations about  continental integration. "A circumspect yet engaged player in the European Union", is how Barroso described Thatcher and expressed "deepest regrets" to the UK government.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid tribute to Thatcher, saying that "she was truly a great leader".

In Spain Prime Minister Rajoy said Thatcher's "firm determination to make reforms" was an inspiration to European leaders. The 'Iron Lady', a significant cold war ally of then US

President Ronald Reagan, was paid a rich tribute by Obama, who said, "As prime minister, she helped restore the confidence and pride that has always been the hallmark of Britain at its best".

"And as an unapologetic supporter of our transatlantic alliance, she knew that with strength and resolve we could win the Cold War and extend freedom's promise," Obama  said.

"Here in America, many of us will never forget her standing shoulder to shoulder with President Reagan, reminding the world that we are not simply carried along by the currents of history, we can shape them with moral conviction, unyielding courage and iron will," the US President said.

Deputy British Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said, “Margaret Thatcher was one of the defining figures in modern British politics. Whatever side of the political debate you stand on, no one can deny that as prime minister she left a unique and lasting imprint on the country she served.”

"She may have divided opinion during her time in politics but everyone will be united today in acknowledging the strength of her personality and the radicalism of her politics,” he said.

Across the other end of the political spectrum, Labour leader Ed Miliband described her as a "unique figure". "She reshaped the politics of a whole generation. She was Britain's first woman prime minister. She moved the centre ground of British politics and was a huge figure on the world stage," he said.

"The Labour party disagreed with much of what she did and she will always remain a controversial figure. But we can disagree and also greatly respect her political achievements and her personal strength," Miliband said.

Labour party also plans to suspend ongoing campaigning in the local elections scheduled for next month until further notice as a mark of respect following Thatcher's death. The Union Jack has been lowered at the houses of parliament and floral tributes are collecting outside her home in Belgravia in central London.

Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair echoed his party leader's views on Thatcher as "a towering political figure".

"Very few leaders get to change not only the political landscape of their country but of the world. Margaret was such a leader. Her global impact was vast. And some of the  changes she made in Britain were, in certain respects at least, retained by the 1997 Labour government, and came to be implemented by governments around the world," he  said.

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond described the former Conservative party leader who led Britain between 1979 and 1990 as a "truly formidable prime minister whose policies defined a political generation".

"No doubt there will now be a renewed debate about the impact of that legacy. Today, however, the proper reaction should be respect and condolences to her family," he added.

Well-known author and Tory party deputy chairman in the 1980s Jeffrey Archer said Thatcher's greatest strength was that when she believed in something for the good of the country she did not take any notice of opinion polls or focus groups.

"She had a strength of character I have never seen equal in my life," he said. Saddened by the new of death of the former British prime minister, Indian-American Governor of the US State of South Carolina Nikki Haley said Thatcher was a personal inspiration and hero to her.

"In her momentous times, she left an enormous mark on her country and the world, reversing Great Britain's path toward socialism and labor union domination, and helping to defeat international communism," Haley said.

"The daughter of a grocer, Margaret Thatcher broke numerous barriers of class and gender, just by being who she was. Her determination and achievements will make her a towering historical figure for generations to come," said Haley, the first Indian-American woman governor of a US State.

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Aditi Khanna in London
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