PARIS: Mikhail Gorbachev, Helmut Kohl and Bill Clinton were among the former friends and foes who joined in tributes to Margaret Thatcher, praising the fearlessness and fierce determination of an “iconic” leader.
The “Iron Lady” was a polarising figure in Britain and beyond, but foreign leaders on Monday were unanimous in acknowledging her place in 20th-century history, with President Barack Obama mourning a “true friend of America”.
Former German chancellor Kohl, considered the father of Germany's 1990 reunification, said he “greatly valued Margaret Thatcher for her love of freedom, her incomparable openness, honesty and straightforwardness”.
Pope Francis said he recalled “with appreciation the Christian values which underpinned her commitment to public service and to the promotion of freedom among the family of nations.”
Gerry Adams, leader of the Sinn Fein republican party, said she had played a “shameful role” in the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
But on Monday most reaction to her death - at least from leaders abroad - was positive.
In Brussels, European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso paid tribute to Thatcher's “contributions” to the growth of the European Union, despite her deep skepticism over increasing ties with Europe.
Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak called her “a formidable figure on the world stage,” adding that she inspired many with “her strong leadership and sense of conviction.”
Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard hailed her for helping to shatter the glass ceiling for women in politics. “Her service as the first female prime minister of the United Kingdom was a history-making achievement,” Gillard said in a statement.
South Korea's first female president, Park Geun-hye - an avowed admirer of Thatcher - also paid tribute to a leader she said revived the British economy and led her nation to “an era of hope in the 1980s”.
Nancy Reagan, the wife of the late US president Ronald Reagan, said that “Ronnie and Margaret were political soulmates, committed to freedom and resolved to end communism”.
Former president Clinton hailed her as an “iconic stateswoman” who lived a “remarkable life as she broke barriers, defied expectations, and led her country”.
Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari expressed profound grief over the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and described her the most influential politician of her times.
“We share their loss,” the President said and added “in Baroness Thatcher's passing away, Britain has lost a great leader.”
British lawmakers gather to honour Thatcher
LONDON: Britain's lawmakers will gather for a special session of parliament on Wednesday to debate the legacy of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whose death on Monday exposed bitterly divided views on the Iron Lady's 11 years in power.
Fellow Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron will lead proceedings, while the head of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, and Labour leader Ed Miliband are also expected to pay their respects.
But firebrand foes such as independent George Galloway have vowed to stay away in protest at Thatcher's often divisive policies.
Queen Elizabeth II will lead mourners at Thatcher's funeral next week, the first time the monarch will have attended the ceremony of one of her former prime ministers since Winston Churchill died in 1965.
Tributes from world leaders who hailed the role of the “Iron Lady” in bringing down communism kept flooding in as the British government announced that the funeral would be next Wednesday at St Paul's Cathedral in London.
Speculation mounted on Tuesday that former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and ex-US first lady Nancy Reagan would be invited to the ceremonial funeral, one step down from the state funeral given to Churchill, but the same honour afforded to the Queen Mother and to Princess Diana.
But Thatcher remained as polarising in death as she did in life, with violence erupting at street parties celebrating the passing of a figure who critics say destroyed millions of lives with her free-market economic policies.
Thatcher, Britain's first female prime minister and longest serving premier of the 20th century, died on Monday aged 87 after suffering a stroke. She had suffered from dementia for more than a decade.
Foreign Secretary William Hague, a fellow Conservative, told a briefing on Tuesday ahead of a meeting with G8 counterparts that Britain was grateful for the condolences from around the world.
“She was an inspiration to many people in other countries, not just this country, particularly people aspiring to their own freedom and democracy at a time they didn't have it, such as behind the Iron Curtain,” Hague said.