MELBOURNE - Former US President Bill Clinton called Wednesday for strength in responding to the downing of flight MH17, declaring that those who shot down the plane -- and provided the means to do it -- sided with a brutal vision of the world.
Speaking at the world AIDS conference in Melbourne, Clinton said it "matters not" if the Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine Thursday by mistake, and the loss of 298 lives on board unintended.
And he paid tribute to the six AIDS campaigners who died aboard the flight.
Speaking to a hall packed with scientists, policymakers and grassroots activists, Clinton singled out Dutch researcher Joep Lange, praising him for tireless work in bringing life-saving drugs to millions of people infected by the AIDS virus.
"He and the five other colleagues we lost lived lives which are overpowering in their contribution to a shared future," Clinton said.
"Those who shot them down and who provided the means to do so represent the other side in our struggle to define the terms of our interdependence: the open hand against the clenched fist, inclusive politics and economics versus division and dominance, cooperation against control, life against death."
The former president called on the world's response to be strong, and not be sapped by any argument that the loss of lives may have been unintended.
This Boeing C-17 of the Australian Air Force will together with aircrafts of the Dutch Air Force, repatriate from Kharkiv to Eindhoven the bodies of those killed on Flight MH17
US intelligence officials have said evidence showed pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine launched the missile, possibly targeting MH17 by mistake.
But Clinton said he had been moved by seeing a statement to the UN Security Council by Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, who spoke of lives torn apart and who ferociously condemned the delays in recovering the bodies.
"It matters not that the murder was meant to be committed against other people," Clinton said.
"I hope that all of our countries who value freedom and honour will look at the statement made yesterday by the Dutch foreign minister before they give into the temptation to say, 'Well, maybe we should weaken our resolve to make a strong stand because after all they didn't mean to shoot this plane down'."