(Reuters) - Reaction to the death of Nelson Mandela, South Africa's anti-apartheid hero and first black president, on Thursday at age 95.
South African President Jacob Zuma: "Our people have lost a father. Although we knew this day was going to come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss. His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world. His humility, passion and humanity earned him their love."
U.S. President Barack Obama: "He achieved more than could be expected of any man. ... Today he's gone home, and we've lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth."
British Prime Minister David Cameron: "A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time."
Desmond Tutu, archbishop emeritus and anti-apartheid activist: "Like a most precious diamond honed deep beneath the surface of the earth, the Madiba who emerged from prison in January 1990 was virtually flawless ... Instead of calling for his pound of flesh, he proclaimed the message of forgiveness and reconciliation, inspiring others by his example to extraordinary acts of nobility of spirit."
Former South African President F.W. de Klerk, on CNN: "He was a great unifier and a very, very special man in this regard beyond everything else he did. This emphasis on reconciliation was his biggest legacy."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: "Nelson Mandela was a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration. Nelson Mandela showed what is possible for our world and within each one of us if we believe, dream and work together for justice and humanity."
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter: "The people of South Africa and human rights advocates around the world have lost a great leader. His passion for freedom and justice created new hope for generations of oppressed people worldwide, and because of him, South Africa is today one of the world's leading democracies."
Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush: "As president, I watched in wonder as Nelson Mandela had the remarkable capacity to forgive his jailers following 26 years of wrongful imprisonment - setting a powerful example of redemption and grace for us all. He was a man of tremendous moral courage, who changed the course of history in his country."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "Nelson Mandela was of the most honorable figures of our time. He was the father of his people, a man of vision, a freedom fighter who rejected violence. He set a personal example for his people in the long years he spent in prison. He was never arrogant. He worked to mend the tears in South African society and with his character managed to prevent outbursts of racial hatred. He will be remembered as the father of new South Africa and as an outstanding moral leader."
Chinese President Xi Jinping: "Mr Mandela was a world-renowned statesman, who during the long years led the South African people through arduous struggles to the anti-apartheid victory, making a historic contribution to the establishment and development of the new South Africa. Mr Mandela, who visited China twice, was also one of the founders of China-South Africa relations, and an active champion of bilateral friendship and cooperation."
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: "He fought for the abolition of apartheid with strong will. On nation building, he made a major achievement with focus on the reconciliation of the people. He was a great leader."
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden: "In the hands of Nelson Mandela, hope and history rhymed. This is a better world because Nelson Mandela was in it. He was a good man."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel: "His name will always be associated with the fight against the oppression of his people and with overcoming the apartheid regime. Not even years in prison could break Nelson Mandela or make him bitter - a new, better South Africa eventually emerged out of his message of reconciliation. ... Nelson Mandela's shining example and his political legacy of non-violence and the condemnation of all forms of racism will continue to inspire people around the world for many years to come."
Myanmar veteran democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi: "I would like to express my extreme grief at the passing away of a man who stood for human rights and equality. He made us all understand that nobody should be penalized for the color of their skin or for the circumstances in which he is born. He also made us understand we can change the world by changing attitudes, by changing perceptions. For this reason I would like to pay tribute to a great human being who raised the standard of humanity."
U.S. civil rights leader Jesse Jackson: "Remembering Nelson Mandela today, in his passing, a true pioneer and inspiration in my life.
Irish rock star Bono: "It was as if he was born to teach the age a lesson in humility, in humor and above all else in patience. In the end, Nelson Mandela showed us how to love rather than hate, not because he had never surrendered to rage or violence, but because he learnt that love would do a better job. Mandela played with the highest stakes. He put his family, his country, his time, his life on the line, and he won most of these contests. Stubborn till the end for all the right reasons, it felt like he very nearly outstared his maker. Today, finally, he blinked. And some of us cry, knowing our eyes were opened to so much because of him."
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto: "Humanity has lost a tireless champion of peace, liberty and equality. Rest in Peace Nelson Mandela."
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt: "Nelson Mandela was man who changed the world. He was as firm in his belief in the equal value of every human being as he was strong in his will and ability to bring about reconciliation. He chose reconciliation where others would have chosen vengeance. He created a new South Africa and gave people around the world a role model and an ideal."
Actress Charlize Theron, who was born in South Africa: "My thoughts and love go out to the Mandela family. Rest in Peace Madiba. You will be missed, but your impact on this world will live forever."
South African entrepreneur Elon Musk: "Rest in peace, Nelson Mandela. A man both good and great."
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan: "Although it has come at the advanced age of 95, Madiba's death will create a huge vacuum that will be difficult to fill in our continent. He will be sorely missed by all who cherish love, peace and freedom the world over ... "
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton: "History will remember Nelson Mandela as a champion for human dignity and freedom, for peace and reconciliation. We will remember him as a man of uncommon grace and compassion, for whom abandoning bitterness and embracing adversaries was not just a political strategy but a way of life . ... All of us are living in a better world because of the life that Madiba lived. He proved that there is freedom in forgiving, that a big heart is better than a closed mind, and that life's real victories must be shared."
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé: "Nelson Mandela was a central figure in the AIDS movement. He was instrumental in laying the foundations of the modern AIDS response. His actions helped save millions of lives and transformed health in Africa. He broke the conspiracy of silence and gave hope that all people should live with dignity."
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny: "The name Mandela stirred our conscience and our hearts. It became synonymous with the pursuit of dignity and freedom across the globe. Today, a great light has been extinguished. The boy from the Transkei has finished his long walk. His journey transformed not just South Africa, but humanity itself."
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key: "Nelson Mandela was an inspirational leader, and a remarkable man. ... For years he symbolized South Africa's hope for a future free from apartheid. Mr. Mandela was a force for change, not only in South Africa, but around the world."
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff: "The biggest personality of the XX century, Mandela conducted with passion and intelligence one of the most important processes of human emancipation in contemporary history - the end of apartheid in South Africa. His fight morphed itself into a paradigm, not only for the African continent but also for those who fight for freedom, justice and equality."
FIFA President Sepp Blatter: "He and I shared an unwavering belief in the extraordinary power of football to unite people in peace and friendship, and to teach basic social and educational values as a school of life. When he was honored and cheered by the crowd at Johannesburg's Soccer City stadium on 11 July 2010, it was as a man of the people, a man of their hearts, and it was one of the most moving moments I have ever experienced. For him, the World Cup in South Africa truly was 'a dream come true.' Nelson Mandela will stay in our hearts forever."
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro: "Nine months since the passing of our comandante (Hugo Chavez), another giant of the people of the world passed away today. Madiba you will live forever!"
(Compiled by the Americas Desk)