JERUSALEM — Except for the Arab and Iranian fringe, the world's shock and outrage at the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was scarcely less than that of his own people.
World leaders from President Bill Clinton to presidents Jacques Chirac of France and Nelson Mandela of South Africa were visibly stunned and spoke with difficulty. A shocked Henry Kissinger, speaking to ABC-TV from Hong Kong, lapsed into long silences as he brushed tears away.
Whatever controversy the peace process has stirred in Israel, it was obvious that in the eyes of the world, Yitzhak Rabin has already entered the annals of greatness — perhaps the first Israeli leader since Moshe Dayan to so capture international admiration.
Sympathetic reactions by world leaders from the United States, Europe, Russia, India and China to such an event are expected.
But even smaller states with whom Israel has minimal contacts, had something to say about Rabin via the Associated Press, Agence France Presse, Reuters and UPI.
The first official reaction from a Gulf Arab state came swiftly from Oman. Sultan Qaboos bin-Said's Foreign Ministry totally denounced the assassination as a gross criminal act. "The government of Oman expresses deep regret for the assassination…It extends its condolences to the family and to the Israeli people."
Taiwan said: "The government and its people show the deepest grief over Prime Minister Rabin. Peace, under his promotion, has gradually come true, the greatest achievement in the Middle East peace movement in the past decades."
Slovakia's Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar said: "The news that the life of the prime minister of the state of Israel Yitzhak Rabin was snuffed out by a criminal hand created a feeling of shock and deep sorrow." He praised Rabin's "wisdom, courage and great determination."
Czech President Vaclav Havel expressed complete shock, and Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, who attended Rabin's funeral, said: "I firmly believe that the criminal act aimed at disrupting the ongoing process of peace settlement will only instigate a determined action to implement the existing agreements and make new ones."
In a telegram to President Ezer Weizman, Pope John Paul called the killing of Rabin "a deplorable act directed at an eminent statesman [and] an action perilous for the cause of peace in the Middle East and the whole world." The somber pontiff condemned the killing to thousands gathered in St. Peter's Square, ending with "Shalom. Shalom."
In Germany, Bundestag President Rita Sussmuth, speaking Sunday before a women's congress of the Christian Democratic Union Party, called for a minute of silence. Private citizens lay candles and flowers in front of the embassy.
At the United Nations, Boutros Boutros-Ghali condemned "in the strongest possible terms this outrageous act of terror which has struck down one of the greatest leaders in Israel's history."
Jewish Agency emissaries reported that they received dozens of faxes from government leaders in Moscow, Odessa, St. Petersburg, Kiev and other capitals.