Updated: 12/06/2013 12:10 | By Agence France-Presse

Australia PM hails Mandela as 'truly great man'

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Friday joined Asian leaders to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela, hailing him "a truly great man" after the anti-apartheid hero died in South Africa aged 95.

Australia PM hails Mandela as 'truly great man'

A file photo taken on July 19, 2005 shows former South African President Nelson Mandela waving goodbye at the end of the third Nelson Mendela Annual Lecture in Johannesburg, South Africa

"Nelson Mandela was one of the great figures of Africa, arguably one of the great figures of the last century," Abbott told Fairfax radio, referring to him as the father of modern South Africa. "A truly great man."

In an official statement, the prime minister said Mandela "will forever be remembered as more than a political leader, he was a moral leader".

"He spent much of his life standing against the injustice of apartheid. When that fight was won, he inspired us again by his capacity to forgive and reconcile his country.

"While the world may never see another Nelson Mandela, he has inspired countless men and women throughout the world to live more courageous and honest lives."

Mandela, who was elected South Africa's first black president after spending nearly three decades in prison, had been receiving treatment for a lung infection at his Johannesburg home since September, after three months in hospital in a critical state.

His condition deteriorated and he died following complications from the lung infection, with his family by his side.

China's President Xi Jinping praised Mandela's "historic contribution" to South Africa and the world.

"Mr Mandela was a world renowned statesman," Xi said in a message of condolence to South African President Jacob Zuma, according to a report posted on the central government's website.

"With arduous and extraordinary efforts, he led the people of South Africa to success in the struggle against apartheid, making a historic contribution to the birth and development of a new South Africa."

Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi said of her fellow Nobel Peace laureate: "I would like to express my extreme grief at the passing away of a man who stood for human rights and for equality in this world.

"He made us all understand that nobody should be penalised for the colour of his skin, for the circumstances into which he is born. 

"He also made us understand that we can change the world -- we can change the world by changing attitudes, by changing perceptions. For this reason I would like to pay him tribute as a great human being who raised the standard of humanity."

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hailed Mandela as a "true Gandhian" who would continue to inspire future generations after his death.

"A giant among men has passed away. This is as much India's loss as South Africa's. He was a true Gandhian," Singh's office tweeted.

"His life and work will remain a source of eternal inspiration for generations to come. I join all those who are praying for his soul."

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