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January 12, 2014 4:42 pm

World Leaders Praise Ariel Sharon, Abbas Mum on Former Israeli Leader

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Former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon lies in state outside Israel's Knesset. Photo: Knesset. The leaders of Israel’s top allies praised former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon following his death on Saturday.

U.S. President Barack Obama sent his “deepest condolences” to Sharon’s family and the people of Israel.

“As Israel says goodbye to Prime Minister Sharon, we join with the Israeli people in honoring his commitment to his country,” Obama said.

Other world leaders chose to focus on Sharon’s controversial decision to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip in their remarks.

French President Francois Hollande said Sharon was a “major actor in the history of his country.”

“After a long political and military career, he chose to turn to turn to dialogue with the Palestinians,” Hollande added.

“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, before he was so tragically incapacitated. Israel has today lost an important leader,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon echoed the focus on the Gaza disengagement.

“Prime Minister 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,” Ban said.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been silent on Sharon’s passing. While prime minister, Sharon courted Abbas as a moderate alternative and successor to former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, whom Sharon blamed for orchestrating the Second Intifada.

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