| Updated at: 1028 PST, Saturday, February 12, 2011|
PARIS: World leaders hailed the toppling of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak as a historic victory for people power that paves the way for democracy.
As Mubarak's three-decade-long rule ended a day after he enraged protesters by refusing to stand down, messages of congratulation to the Egyptian people flooded in.
US President Barack Obama said the people of Egypt had spoken and would settle for nothing less than "genuine democracy."
"The people of Egypt have spoken -- their voices have been heard and Egypt will never be the same," Obama said.
The armed forces would now have to ensure a political transition that was "credible in the eyes of the Egyptian people," Obama said, warning however that there could be "difficult days ahead."
UN chief Ban Ki-moon praised Mubarak for bowing to the will of the people and taking a "difficult decision, taken in the wider interests of the Egyptian people."
French President Nicolas Sarkozy saluted Mubarak's "courageous and necessary" decision to step down, adding: "France calls on all Egyptians to continue their march towards liberty."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Mubarak's departure marked a "historic change" and that she expected Egypt's future government "to continue to keep the peace in the Middle East, in that the agreements made with Israel are respected and Israel's security is guaranteed."
British Prime Minister David Cameron said that with Mubarak out, Egypt now had a "really precious moment of opportunity to have a government that can bring the country together".
"Those who now run Egypt have a duty to reflect the wishes of the Egyptian people," Cameron said.
Russia and Italy offered more guarded reactions.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed hope the power shift would "help the restoration of stability."
Italy, which earlier broke with most other Western leaders by coming out strongly in favour of Mubarak's continued tenure, noted the "important development for the Egyptian people and its legitimate democratic aspirations," in a statement by Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.
Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, in a joint statement, hailed "a remarkable day for the people of Egypt."
"All Australians will have been moved by the joy we saw last night in Cairo’s Tahrir Square," they said.
"In their millions, Egyptians have called for change -- for an open, democratic society that offers greater opportunity for its people."
In Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton judged that the 82-year-old strongman had "listened to the voices of the Egyptian people" who had staged more than two weeks of massive protests for his departure.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper stressed the need for free and fair elections and respect for human rights including minorities.
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma praised Mubarak for "having thought like a leader, to place the interests of Egypt above his own."
In Tunisia, whose own "Jasmine Revolution" spurred on the Egyptian revolt, people danced in the street and blared their horns.
Reactions came from all quarters of the Islamic world.
Iran described Egyptian protesters as having achieved a "great victory."
From the Gaza Strip, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri likewise praised the "the start of the victory of the Egyptian revolution" as celebrations erupted across the territory.
In Yemen, thousands of people took to the streets. Some chanted: "Yesterday Tunisia, today Egypt, and tomorrow Yemenis will break their chains."
Turkey tapped the Internet that has powered the Egyptian revolt, with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu twittering hopes that Mubarak's departure would produce a new "system" meeting the demands of ordinary Egyptians.
Qatar called the power change a "positive and important step towards achieving the aspirations of the Egyptian people for democracy, reform, and a decent life," according to a statement carried by the state news agency QNA.
Arab League chief Amr Mussa, a former Egyptian foreign minister, called for consensus and said he was at the "service of my country" when asked if he would stand for president in the next elections.
Israel offered a more cautious reaction to Mubarak's departure, with a government official describing the moment as "too important to draw immediate conclusions about the outcome." (AFP)