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World is urging to go ahead with peace in Middle East - 2004-11-11


President Bush on Thursday called on the two sides and the world community to help advance the goal of what he called an independent, democratic Palestine that is at peace with its neighbors.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said London will work with other parties to help Israelis and Palestinians reach what he called a fair and durable settlement. And French President Jacques Chirac, who visited Mr. Arafat in the hospital, pledged that France will continue working for Middle East peace.

Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter expressed sympathy and hope that a peaceful Palestinian state will emerge.

In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told reporters that Mr. Arafat's death could be a "historic turning point" for the Middle East. He said progress depends on whether the new Palestinian leaders crack down on militant Palestinian groups.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Mr. Arafat's passing is a heavy loss for the Palestinians. Chinese President Hu Jintao called Mr. Arafat a great friend of China and said his death is a great loss for the Palestinian people.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Mr. Arafat will always be remembered for having led the Palestinian people to accept the principle of the peaceful coexistence of a future Palestinian state with Israel. Mr. Annan ordered the flags at U.N. headquarters to be flown at half-staff.

Cuba and North Korea both declared three days of national mourning.

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