Cameron pays tribute to Sharon

David Cameron has paid tribute to former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, who has died nearly eight years after suffering a devastating stroke.

Mr Cameron praised the 85-year-old, who had been in a coma since April 2006, as an "important leader" for the country and said he had taken "brave and controversial" decisions.

"Ariel Sharon is one of the most significant figures in Israeli history and as prime minister he took brave and controversial decisions in pursuit of peace, before he was so tragically incapacitated," Mr Cameron said.

"Israel has today lost an important leader."

The veteran soldier, nicknamed the 'bulldozer', fought in the series of wars that forged the state of Israel before entering politics in 1973.

Critics held him responsible for the 1982 massacre of hundreds of Palestinians by Israel's Lebanese Phalangist allies in Beirut refugee camps.

However, others pointed to his efforts to secure a stable peace as prime minister between 2001 and 2006, including unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Sharon was still in office when he suffered his stroke, and never regained consciousness.

Complications after surgery at the beginning of this month had seen a sharp deterioration in his condition.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said: "Ariel Sharon was a figure who dominated Israeli politics for a generation. Nobody can doubt the impact he had on Middle East politics.

"My thoughts today are with his family after the many years of his illness."

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