Washington: Expressing deepest condolences to the family of Ariel Sharon and to the people of Israel, US President Barack Obama said Vice President Joe Biden will lead the American delegation to the memorial service of the popular former Israeli premier.
"We reaffirm our unshakable commitment to Israel's security and our appreciation for the enduring friendship between our two countries and our two peoples," Obama said in a statement.
"We continue to strive for lasting peace and security for the people of Israel, including through our commitment to the goal of two states living side-by-side in peace and security.
"As Israel says goodbye to Prime Minister Sharon, we join with the Israeli people in honouring his commitment to his country," he said.
Biden said: "I look forward to leading the US delegation to his memorial service, to pay respects to the man and to pay tribute to the unshakable partnership between the United States and Israel."
The Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express his condolences. Because of his pre-scheduled travel plans, Kerry would not be able to attend the memorial, his spokesperson Jen Psaki said.
"During his years in politics, it is no secret that there were times the United States had differences with him. But whether you agreed or disagreed with his positions and Arik (Ariel) was always crystal clear about where he stood you admired the man who was determined to ensure the security and survival of the Jewish State," Kerry said.
Former US president Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary, an ex-Secretary of State, in a statement said Sharon gave his life to Israel to bring it into being, to sustain and preserve it, and at the end of his long service, to create a new political party committed to both a just peace and lasting security.
"It was an honour to work with him, argue with him, and watch him always trying to find the right path for his beloved country," the statement said.
"I was honoured to know this man of courage and call him friend," said George W Bush, the former US president whose 2001-2009 tenure in the White House coincided with Sharon's 2001-2006 premiership.
Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Sharon fought for Israel on the battlefield and for peace at the negotiating table.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said: "Ariel Sharon was a loyal and a fierce defender of peace and prosperity for the Jewish democratic state of Israel. I admired and respected him for his passion and courage. He was a good friend of the United States and a partner in seeking a more peaceful Middle East."
First Published On : Jan 12, 2014 14:14 IST