WASHINGTON -- US President Barack Obama hailed Lee Kuan Yew on Sunday as a visionary and ''true giant of history'' after Singapore's first prime minister died aged 91.
Lee, who dominated Singapore politics for more than half a century, was an authoritarian leader who transformed the city-state from a sleepy British imperial outpost into a global trading and financial center.
"A visionary who led his country from Singapore’s independence in 1965 to build one of the most prosperous countries in the world today, he was a devoted public servant and a remarkable leader," Obama said in a glowing tribute.
He added in a statement: "I personally appreciated his wisdom, including our discussions during my trip to Singapore in 2009, which were hugely important in helping me formulate our policy of rebalancing to the Asia Pacific.
"He was a true giant of history who will be remembered for generations to come as the father of modern Singapore and as one of the great strategists of Asian affairs."
Former US presidents George W. Bush and his father George H. W. also hailed Lee's pivotal role in the history of Singapore.
"The father of today's Singapore transformed his country and helped usher the ASEAN region into the modern era," George W. Bush said in a statement.
"The nation he leaves behind is an influential force for stability and prosperity and a friend to the United States."
In a separate statement, George H. W. Bush said: "I will always be proud that Lee Kuan Yew was my friend."
© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse