Monday, June 7, 2004

LONDON — German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Britain will attend the state funeral for Ronald Reagan.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan joined them and many others around the world yesterday in mourning the former president, praising his leadership during the Cold War.

“President Reagan will be remembered for his leadership and resolve during a period of momentous change in world affairs, as well as for the warmth, grace and humor with which he conducted affairs of state,” Mr. Annan said.

But some commentators, while noting his optimism and charm, took a parting shot at Mr. Reagan, whose conservative policies remain suspect in much of Europe.

“Alongside his firm opposition to Soviet power, there was a dangerous ratcheting up of military tension in Europe, subversion of change in Central America, growing support for expansionist Israeli policies in the Middle East and backing for Iraq in its war against Iran,” the Irish Times said in an editorial. He also “left a legacy of huge budget deficits from bloated military spending.”

Cuba blasted Mr. Reagan in its first public reaction to his death, saying, “He who never should have been born has died.”

Mr. Reagan’s tough rhetoric and his Strategic Defense Initiative antimissile program drew the Soviets into a costly arms race it couldn’t afford, helping lead to the collapse of what he called the “evil empire.”

His 1987 declaration to the Kremlin at the Berlin Wall — “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” — was the ultimate challenge of the Cold War.

He helped end long-standing conflicts and create historic agreements on the reduction of nuclear arms, Mr. Annan said.

At the start of a U.N. Security Council meeting about Iraq yesterday, the 15 council ambassadors and all others in the chamber stood in silent tribute to Mr. Reagan.

Officials in Britain’s top two political parties, the center-left governing Labor Party and the opposition Conservatives, both praised Mr. Reagan’s legacy.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Mr. Reagan was a “historic figure in the history of the United States and indeed of the West.”

Michael Ancram, foreign-policy spokesman for the Conservatives, told the House of Commons that Mr. Reagan “left an indelible mark on history.”

“He challenged the seemingly inevitable march of communism, and he won. We have lost a champion and a friend,” he said.

The conservative London Daily Telegraph praised Mr. Reagan as “a great American president — perhaps the greatest of the postwar epoch — who certainly deserves a stone-carved niche in that Olympus of commanders-in-chief atop Mount Rushmore.”

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