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Leaders unite in cheering capture

Pithy headlines, graphic pictures defined Saddam's capture the world over on Monday.
Pithy headlines, graphic pictures defined Saddam's capture the world over on Monday.

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(CNN) -- Leaders divided over the war in Iraq have joined members of the coalition to celebrate the capture of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

Germany, France, China and Russia -- nations strongly opposed to the Iraq conflict -- said they hoped Saddam's capture could foster stability and democracy in Iraq and reconcile the world community.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who has been sharply critical of the White House's Iraq policy, penned a letter to U.S. President Bush shortly after news broke out that one of most intense manhunts in history had ended.

"With great happiness, I have learned of the capture of Saddam Hussein. I congratulate you on the successful mission," Schroeder wrote.

Another fierce opponent of the war, Indonesia, said it hoped Saddam's capture would speed the transition to democracy and Iraqi rule.

Meanwhile in Paris, a spokesman for French President Jacques Chirac said: "The president is delighted with Saddam Hussein's arrest."

On a state visit to Chile, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said it "will help activate the political mediation of the situation in that country with an active role of the United Nations."

In Beijing, Chinese officials joined the chorus of leaders expressing hope the former dictator's capture would bring about peace and stability in Iraq. (China hopeful)

Good timing

The words of reconciliation couldn't have come at a better time for the United States, which stoked the anger of non-coalition nations last week when it announced $18.6 billion in Iraqi reconstruction contracts would only be awarded to countries that supported the war.

It also comes on the eve of a trip to Europe by Bush's special envoy to Iraq -- former secretary of state James Baker -- who is being dispatched to the region to try to calm last week's diplomatic feud and to get those nations to forgive billions of dollars of Iraqi debt.

State Department officials said they hope Saddam's capture would move the countries to eliminate some of the debt, which for several countries, runs into billions of dollars.

For his part, U.S. President George W. Bush said a "dark and painful" chapter in Iraq's history was now over. The former dictator would face "the justice he denied to millions." (Bush words)

In London, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair -- Bush's main ally said Saddam's capture "removes the shadow that has been hanging over them [the Iraqis]," a sentiment shared by Australian Prime Minister John Howard. (Blair: Shadow gone)

Howard, whose nation has troops in Iraq, called Saddam's capture "a wonderful achievement." He told CNN the "chief tormentor" of the Iraqi people now will face justice, preferably by a trial in his home country.

"It only seems fair to me that they get to try him according to their laws," Howard said. The prime minister added that he doesn't believe the violence will subside in Iraq now that Saddam is not at large, but vowed to keep Australian troops there as long as they are needed.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said the arrest was "a great step forward," while Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said it was "a great day for everyone."

'Do everything possible'

At the United Nations, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the world body is ready to do "everything possible to help Iraqis, if asked and as circumstances permit."

The capture, Annan said, "offers an opportunity to give fresh impetus to the search for peace and stability in Iraq, on the basis of an inclusive and fully transparent process."

NATO Secretary General George Robertson said: "I have heard the news and greatly welcome it. I hope it will lead to greater stability for the people of Iraq."

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, in Paris, said Saddam's capture would have "a demoralizing effect" on his supporters and could result in a decrease in attacks on coalition targets in Iraq.

Iraqis filled the streets of Baghdad in rousing celebration as news of the capture spread, while Iraqi officials hailed "a great day," promising a fair and open trial.

When Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez -- the commander of coalition forces in Iraq -- showed video of the bearded, bewildered-looking former dictator, Iraqi journalists leapt from their seats, shouting, "Death to Saddam!"

Not everyone happy

In the Arab world leaders also expressed joy over the news.

Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, said Saddam's capture has brought an end to the "infamous chapter of history for Iraq and the region."

"Saddam Hussein was a menace to the Arab world, and his reign of terror will be remembered for its brutality, aggression and oppression," Prince Bandar said in a statement.

The Arab League Secretary-General, Amr Moussa, said today marked "the total end of the previous regime."

The governments of Jordan, Egypt and Kuwait also praised the capture. (Mideast reaction)

In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told reporters he had called and congratulated Bush.

"It's a great day for the democratic world, for the fighters of freedom and justice and for those who fight against terror," Sharon said.

However for many people in Gaza and the West Bank, Saddam's capture was not cause for celebration. ('Black day')

Despite his crimes, Saddam was seen as a steadfast supporter of the Palestinian cause.

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