Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Thursday called for national unity and reconciliation, not revenge, in Libya following the death of Muammar Gaddafi, the former Libyan leader. In a statement, the UN chief asked combatants on both sides to lay down their arms in peace. Gaddafi, who ruled Libya for 42 years, was killed Thursday when the forces that toppled his regime overwhelmed his hometown of Sirte. Clearly this day marks an historic transition for Libya, Ban said Thursday. Yet let us recognize immediately that this is only the end of the beginning. The road ahead for Libya and its people will be difficult and full of challenges. Ban pledged UN support to Libyas transitional authorities as they build a new nation. The capture and reported death of Libyas longtime leader was arguably the most dramatic event of the so-called Arab Spring, an eventful period of revolt that began in Tunisia towards the end of last year. Agencies add that the world leaders hailed the death of former Libyan strongman Muammer Gaddafi on Thursday as the end of despotism, tyranny, dictatorship and war in the north African country. As Libyans on the streets of Tripoli and Sirte fired automatic weapons into the air and danced for joy, the death of the man who had ruled the oil-rich north African nation for 42 years was widely welcomed. British Prime Minister David Cameron described it as an occasion to remember his victims, while hailing it as a chance for a democratic future for Libya. I think today is a day to remember all of Colonel Gaddafis victims including those who died in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, he said in a statement outside his office. President Barack Obama praised Muammar Gaddafis death as a warning to authoritarian leaders across the Middle East that iron-fisted rule inevitably comes to an end and as vindication for his cautious US strategy on Libya. Obama joined US politicians and ordinary Americans in welcoming the demise of Gaddafi, who was for decades regarded as a nemesis of American presidents, and he also sought to claim some of the credit for the Libyan strongmans downfall. This marks the end of a long and painful chapter for the people of Libya who now have the opportunity to determine their own destiny in a new and democratic Libya, Obama told reporters in the White House Rose Garden. Obama made clear that he considered Gaddafis death a vindication of his leading from behind strategy that had drawn criticism at home for casting the United States in a support role in the NATO air assault in Libya. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Gaddafis disappearance was a major step forward in the battle fought for more than eight months by the Libyan people to liberate themselves from the dictatorial and violent regime imposed on them for more than 40 years. The liberation of Sirte should mark, in accordance with commitments taken by the National Transitional Council, the start of the process accepted by the NTC to establish a democratic system in Libya in which all components of the country will have their place and in which fundamental freedoms will be guaranteed, he said. A new page is turning for the Libyan people, one of reconciliation in unity and freedom, Sarkozy said. French and British forces spearheaded the air campaign against Gaddafis military by the NATO military alliance, which has launched nearly 1,000 strike sorties since March 31. In Rome, Libyas former colonial ruler, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said after the death of his onetime ally: Now the war is over. Sic transit gloria mundi (Thus passes the glory of the world), Berlusconi said, quoting a Latin tag. The Vaticans number two, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, prayed for peace in the country and democracy. In Brussels, the European Union said Gaddafis death marks the end of an era of despotism. The news means an end also to the repression from which the Libyan people have suffered for too long, EU president Herman Van Rompuy said in a joint statement with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Libyans can now look to the future. Gaddafis death brings closure to a tragic period in the lives of so many Libyans. The current holder of the EUs rotating presidency, Poland, warned Gaddafis fate should be a warning to other dictators in the region and in the world. We hope that his collaborators, wanted for crimes, will soon be brought before the courts, the foreign ministry added. In Washington, senior US Senator John McCain said the death marked the end of the first phase of the Libyan revolution. Families of the US victims of the Lockerbie bombing applauded the Libyan people, but urged Libyas new leaders to bring the other perpetrators to justice. Gaddafi was accused of ordering the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jumbo jet that exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing 259 people on the plane, most of them Americans, as well as 11 Scots on the ground. The only person convicted, Libyan agent Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, was released by Scotland on compassionate grounds in 2009 after doctors said he had three months to live. He returned to Libya. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Gaddafis death left the way clear for a new, peaceful, political start, urging the country to move swiftly towards democracy. Two of the five Bulgarian nurses imprisoned in Libya for eight years over an HIV scandal said Gaddafi got what he deserved. The news made me very happy. Its a punishment. A dog like him deserved to die like a dog, Valya Chervenyashka told AFP. The nurses were tortured and twice sentenced to death under Gaddafis regime. Gaddafi was fatally wounded as new regime forces launched a final assault on the last pocket of resistance in his hometown Sirte, a National Transitional Council spokesman said. However, the South African government has taken a neutral stand on the death of Muammar Gaddafi. International Relations Departments Clayson Monyela said he hoped there would be political restoration in Libya. We wish to reiterate our view that a lasting and sustainable peaceful solution is possible through an impressive political process that will culminate the holding of the first ever democratic elections in accordance with the roadmap announced by the NTC. The Council of Muslim Theologians Ebrahim Bham said it was ironic that Gaddafis death was being celebrated by the same people who worked with him. It is a smack of hypocrisy that his departure should be celebrated by the same people who would conveniently struck business deals with him and would also use him to disregard human rights abuse that might have brought criticism for them in their own countries. Arabs see Gaddafis death as message to rulers. The bloodied corpse of deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi will send a clear message to other Arab leaders who are battling to stay in power against the will of their people, some Arabs said on Thursday. This is the fate of a leader who destroyed the lives of his people for decades and opened fire on them before his demise, said Mohamed Beltagy, senior member of Egypts influential Muslim Brotherhood. Gaddafis fate should be a lesson for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and Yemens (Ali Abdullah) Saleh, he said, referring to two Arab heads of state who have sought to quash unrest with their armies. The presidents of Tunisia and then Egypt were the first to be ousted in the 'Arab Spring that has brought ordinary people onto the streets to demand political change where many kings and presidents have ruled for decades. But Tunisias Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Egypts Hosni Mubarak were driven out by protests with relatively little violence.