The world remembers former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher | News | DW | 09.04.2013
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The world remembers former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Leaders from around the world have reacted to the death of Britain's former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The Conservative leader, known as the "Iron Lady," served as British head of government from 1979 to 1990.

"It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother Baroness Thatcher died peacefully following a stroke this morning," spokesman Lord Tim Bell said Monday. She was 87 years old.

Thatcher had suffered from poor health for a number of years and reportedly died at the Ritz Hotel in London, where she had been staying since Christmas.

In a statement Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron heralded the former premier's achievements, “I believe she'll go down as the greatest British peacetime prime minister.”

"Her legacy will be the fact that she served her country so well, and she saved our country and she showed immense courage in doing so, and people will be learning about what she did and her achievements in decades, probably centuries to come," he said after cutting short his visit to Europe to return to England following the news of her death.

Queen Elizabeth II also shared her condolences with Thatcher's family. A statement issued by Buckingham Palace said the Queen was greatly saddened by the news.

Elected in 1979, Thatcher remains the only female prime minister to govern in Britain. Despite radically dividing public opinion, she went on to lead the Conservatives to two further election wins, remaining at the helm for the longest continuous period in British politics since the early 19th century.

Condolences from abroad

In a written statement US President Barack Obama called Thatcher a great champion of "freedom and liberty" and cited her humble beginnings as a grocer's daughter. "She stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can't be shattered."

Obama said with the death of Thatcher, America had lost a "true friend."

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard Tuesday hailed Thatcher for helping pave the way for women in politics. Gillard herself is Australia's first female prime minister.

"Her service as the first female prime minister of the United Kingdom was a history-making achievement," she said in a statement.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the first woman to hold that title, also paid tribute by describing Thatcher as "one of the most outstanding world leaders of her time."

European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso expressed his "deepest regrets" to the UK government. He praised Thatcher's "contributions" to the growth of the EU, although he acknowledged that she was famously unconvinced by its merits.

She was a "circumspect yet engaged player in the European Union," who "will be remembered for both her contributions to and her reserves about our common project," Barroso said.

A divisive legacy

Markedly absent was any reaction from Argentina over Thatcher's death. As premier, she led Britain to war with Argentina after it invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982. The victory ensured her re-election in a landslide the following year.

During her time as prime minister she had many critics, among them were coal miners who blamed her for speeding up the decline of their industry after she refused to give in to union demands which saw many violent clashes between police and protesters.

She was also criticized in Northern Ireland where she took a hard line during a hunger strike in which 10 prisoners died in 1981. Three years later she survived a deadly IRA (Irish Republican Army) bomb attack on her party conference, which killed five people.

Thatcher was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire in 1925. Soon after completing a degree in chemistry at Somerville College in Oxford in 1947, she began a political career in the Conservative Party, where she eventually became known for shifting Britain's economic and foreign policy to the right.

The former prime minister is to receive a "ceremonial funeral" with military honors next week, according to Downing Street.

hc/jm (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

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