Ariel Sharon a 'complex man in complex times', says Biden

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Ariel Sharon a 'complex man in complex times', says Biden

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Dignitaries came to Israeli former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s funeral from more than 20 countries, according to the Israeli foreign ministry.

Outside the Knesset parliament in Jerusalem, Sharon’s sons, Omri and Gilad, greeted the funeral guests informally, including Israeli politicians who had worked with their father.

British former Prime Minister Tony Blair said the man they had come to honour had both fought and “sought peace with the same iron determination.”

Blair sat next to Israel’s hardline foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the former leader’s commitment to Israel’s security.

Netanyahu said: “Arik [Sharon’s nickname] understood that in matters of our existence and security we must stand firm. We are sticking to these principles. Israel will continue to fight terror. Israel will continue to strive for peace, while protecting our security. Israel will act in every way to deny Iran the capability of arming itself with nuclear weapons.”

Netanyahu also said Sharon ascribed great importance to ties with Israel’s closest ally, the United States.

US Vice President Joe Biden said Sharon’s north star was the survival of the State of Israel and the Jewish people, and he suggested any judgements of the man be deferred and balanced.

Biden said: “There were times when he acted and those actions earned him controversy and even condemnation. As I said, from my observation he was a complex man, but to understand him better I think it’s important – history will judge – [to acknowledge that] he also lived in complex times, in a very complex neighbourhood.”

Sharon’s coffin was taken to a short ceremony at Latrun, scene of a key battle in 1948, and then to his Negev Desert ranch in an army truck.

His pall bearers were eight generals.

He was buried next to his late wife, Lily.