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World Leaders Express Sorrow Over Shuttle Deaths - 2003-02-02


The world's leaders are reacting with sympathy and sadness to the loss of the space shuttle Columbia and the death of its crew.

Russian President Vladimir Putin telephoned President Bush to express his nation's sorrow.

One of the seven astronauts who died (Saturday) was Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli in space. His shocked countrymen watched the disaster unfold in live television broadcasts.

At a memorial service today (Sunday) for Colonel Ramon and the other astronauts, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel intends to send more astronauts into space in the future.

Residents of (Karnal) a small town in northern India mourned the death of their hometown hero, aerospace engineer Kalpana Chawla, who emigrated to the United States about 20 years ago. Ms. Chawla was the most experienced astronaut aboard Columbia. Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said her Indian origins intensified the impact of the tragedy.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the seven victims of the space accident were courageous men and women. Leaders of China, Japan, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Mexico, Cuba and other countries also offered their sympathies to the families of the astronauts and the United States.

Pope John Paul prayed for the astronauts during services at Saint Peter's Basilica.

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