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World mourns 'hero' Aquino

HONG KONG: The US, Japan and Southeast Asia led international tributes to former Philippines president Corazon Aquino, who died yesterday after a battle with cancer.

People across the Catholic nation woke to the news yesterday, as Aquino's family announced the 76-year-old's death and President Gloria Arroyo declared a 10-day period of mourning.

US President Barack Obama described her as a historic figure who helped restore democracy to her country.

Obama "was deeply saddened" by news of Aquino's death, read a statement late from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

Aquino played a crucial role in Philippines history, moving the country to democratic rule through her non-violent 'People Power' movement over 20 years ago.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hailed Aquino as an inspiration.

"Cory Aquino was beloved by her nation and admired by the world for her extraordinary courage after the assassination of her husband, and later, during her service as president," Clinton said.

"She helped bring democracy back to the Philippines after many years of authoritarian rule with a faith in her country and its people that never wavered."

Aquino was propelled into the political spotlight in 1986, leading millions of Filipinos in protests against Ferdinand Marcos, who jailed thousands of dissidents during his brutal 20-year regime.

Arroyo, in the US on an official visit, said: "Aquino led a revolution that restored democracy and the rule of law to our nation at a time of great peril."

Pope Benedict XVI hailed the former leader as a "woman of deep and unwavering faith" and praised the former leader of the Catholic nation for her "courageous commitment to the freedom of the Filipino people" and "her firm rejection of violence and intolerance".

Chinese President Hu Jintao sent a message of sympathy to his Philippine counterpart Arroyo over Aquino's passing.

Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso hailed Aquino's contribution to friendly ties between the two countries.

"We would like to sincerely renew our deep respect for her achievement," Aso said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of the Philippines' nearest neighbour Indonesia said in a statement he was saddened by the news and offered his heartfelt condolences.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva also praised Aquino's contribution to peace and development of democracy in the Philippines.

Singapore, in a statement from the Foreign Ministry, lauded her as "a remarkable woman" who worked tirelessly for the betterment of the Philippines.



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