PARIS - The United States joined its arch-foe Iran on Saturday in hailing the justice of Saddam Hussein's execution, but European powers opposed the use of capital punishment.
Bush was asleep at his Texas ranch when the hanging of Saddam was carried out in Baghdad, the White House said.
"Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself," he said.
Iran, the influential neighbour of Iraq and arch-foe of the US administration, also welcomed the execution.
"With regards to Saddam's execution, the Iraqi people are the victorious ones, as they were victorious when Saddam fell," said Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Hamid Reza Asefi, in remarks reported by the IRNA news agency.
The autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq welcomed Saddam Hussein's execution Saturday but said it should not be an excuse to cut short inquiries into his genocide charges against the Kurds.
Israel, a strong US ally and enemy of Saddam, also hailed the hanging. "Justice has been done," a high-ranking Israeli official said.
Britain, the main US ally in Iraq, said Saddam Hussein had been "held to account" but reiterated its opposition to the use of the death penalty, as did Australia, another key supporter of the US invasion.
"He has now been held to account. The British government does not support the use of the death penalty, in Iraq or anywhere else. We advocate an end to the death penalty worldwide, regardless of the individual or the crime."
Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said: "No matter what one might think about the death penalty, and the government of Iraq is aware of the Australian government's position on capital punishment, we must also respect the right of sovereign states to pass judgement relating to crimes committed against their people, within their jurisdictions."
Russia's foreign ministry expressed regret, saying that international calls for clemency had been ignored.
"Unfortunately, the many appeals from representatives of various countries and international organisations for Iraq's authorities to hold back from capital punishment were not heard," a ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
Russian lawmakers warned the execution could worsen the violence.
India also condemned the execution. "We had already expressed the hope the execution would not be carried out. We are disappointed that it has been," said foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee in a statement.
The ruling Hamas movement in the Palestinian territories called the execution of Saddam a "political assassination".
"Saddam Hussein was a prisoner of war," a Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhum, said. The "hanging ... is a political assassination that violates all international laws that are supposed to protect prisoners of war."
Libya declared three days of national mourning after the execution, with official media also calling Saddam a "prisoner of war".
Malaysia, a leading Muslim nation, warned the execution of Saddam could trigger more bloodshed.
"A lot of people, the international community generally, are not in favour of the hanging and question the due process that took place," Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar, whose country is current chair of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said.
Outside of Britain, European reaction, led by the European Union (EU), focused on opposing the death penalty.
"The EU condemns the crimes committed by Saddam and also the death penalty," Cristina Gallach, a spokeswoman for Javier Solana, the EU high representative for foreign affairs, said.
France, a high profile opponent of the Iraq invasion at the United Nations, called on Iraqis to end their divisions.
"France calls upon all Iraqis to look towards the future and work towards reconciliation and national unity. Now more than ever, the objective should be a return to full sovereignty and stability in Iraq," the French foreign ministry said in a statement.
But France along with Germany also highlighted Europe's opposition to capital punishment.
German junior foreign minister Gernot Erler said that his country "understood" the feelings of the victims of Saddam's brutal regime but remained opposed to capital punishment.
Among other major powers, Japan said it respected Iraq's decision to carry out the execution.
"Japan hopes Iraq will turn into a stable country and will continue supporting the country together with the international community," Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was quoted by Kyodo News as saying.
The Vatican saw the hanging as "tragic news", Vatican spokesman Frederico Lombardi said.
"There is a risk that it feeds the spirit of vengeance and plants the seeds for fresh violence," he said.
Saddam Hussein's two older daughters, who live in Jordan, reacted with grief and stoicism Saturday to news of his hanging, one of the former Iraqi dictator leader's lawyers in Amman said.
"Raghad Hussein and Rana Hussein gathered together with their nine children (overnight Friday) to wait for news," the lawyer said on condition of anonymity.
Several of Saddam's lawyers were with them at Raghad's residence in the west of the Jordanian capital, where the eldest daughter Raghad was said to have reacted "stoically".
"He was their father, and he was not just any father," the lawyer said. "You can imagine their grief."
Lawyers for Iraqi ex-president Saddam Hussein said his execution on Saturday was a "political assassination" and that the former leader died "a martyr," according to a statement.
"President Saddam Hussein died a martyr... faced with the power and injustice of those who stole his rights from him as well as those of his own defense," the statement said.
"The martyr chose his martyr path voluntarily and consciously to highlight that the struggle between law and power will not end here," it said.
"The defense team will not close the book on this matter and will pursue its struggle, using all legal paths available locally and internationally until public opinion gets the truth about this political assassination."
The lawyers repeated their assertions that the trial was a "masquerade" and "a flagrant violation of international law".
Saddam "will remain a symbol for all those who fight against law by force ... and he is now in paradise, God willing," the statement concluded.