TOKYO – Several world leaders expressed relief Wednesday over the deaths of Saddam Hussein (search)'s sons with some saying they hoped it would help end sporadic fighting in Iraq and speed its progress toward democracy.
In Hong Kong, British Prime Minister Tony Blair (search) hailed the killings as "a great day for the new Iraq."
"These particular two people were the head of the regime, which was not just a security threat because of its weapons program but was responsible for the torture and killings of thousands and thousands of innocent Iraqis," said Blair, who was on a tour of Asia.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard (search), one of the staunchest supporters of the tough U.S. line on Iraq, said their deaths would bring a measure of stability to post-war Iraq.
"I don't want to overstate that, but psychologically it's a huge step forward," said Howard.
That sentiment was echoed by leaders in Japan and New Zealand.
Japan's top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, said it might help eliminate the pockets of resistance in Iraq.
"Hopefully, their removal will assist stability in Iraq, in the interests of facilitating self-determination by the Iraqi people," said New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff.
Still, some in the United States had hoped to see the two stand trial.
"I, my children, were ecstatic about the news," said Qasim Al-Hashimi, 40, watching Arabic news broadcasts in the Karbalaa Islamic Center in Dearborn, Mich. on Tuesday. But Al-Hashimi added that he would have preferred that the two be taken alive.
"Their crimes need to be exposed to the Iraqi people and to the Arab world," he said, showing deep scars around his wrists, which he said were the result of torture when he was imprisoned for opposing Saddam's regime.
Reaction in the Iraqi city of Mosul, site of the gunfight, was divided. At least 1,000 people shouted in delight or cursed the Americans outside the mansion of the tribal sheik Nawaf al-Zaydan Muhhamad, where Uday and Qusay had been holed up.
"How can they do this?" a man in the crowd shouted Tuesday, apparently more concerned with the property damage. "What are the Americans doing destroying a house like this?"
Some Iraqis were delighted while others cursed U.S. soldiers who milled about as smoke wafted from the blown-out windows as the six-hour siege ended. Still others stood silently and appeared in mourning.
Both Uday and Qusay ranked second only to their father in the deposed regime.
U.S. forces were working on a tip from an Iraqi informant Monday night that the sons were in the house, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez told reporters in Baghdad on Tuesday. The United States had offered a $25 million reward for information leading to Saddam's capture and $15 million each for his sons.
Saddam has a third, younger son, according to some reports, and three daughters. The four kept a low profile. Saddam himself is believed to be alive.