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Associated Press
Mark Thatcher, the son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher talks to members of the media outside her residence in central London, Wednesday, April 10, 2013, Thatcher, the combative "Iron Lady" who infuriated European allies, found a fellow believer in former US President Ronald Reagan and transformed her country by a ruthless dedication to free markets in 11 bruising years as prime minister, died Monday, April 8, 2013. She was 87. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

LONDON — British lawmakers remembered former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on Wednesday as a towering political figure who restored her country's confidence and pride — but who alienated many voters, from coal miners to gay people, with her uncompromising policies.

Prime Minister David Cameron led praise for Thatcher during a special session of the House of Commons, recalled from its Easter break after the ex-leader's death Monday at the age of 87.

"Let this be her epitaph: That she made our country great again," Cameron told a packed room of lawmakers.

"She defined and she overcame the great challenges of her age and it is right that Parliament has been recalled to mark our respect," said Cameron, who heads the Conservative party that Thatcher once led.

The special sessions at the House of Commons are usual for former premiers, but are generally brief. More than seven hours was set aside for Thatcher, a reflection of her status as one of Britain's most iconic political figures — and one whose legacy still sparks furious debate.

Legislators hailed a string of Thatcher's achievements, from privatization of cumbersome state-run industries to reclaiming the Falkland Islands after Argentina's 1982 invasion. They are once-controversial measures on which both government and opposition parties now broadly agree — perhaps Thatcher's greatest accomplishment of all.

Amid the tributes, some lawmakers brought up the negative effects of her free-market economic policies — unemployment, shuttered industries, frayed social bonds.

Ed Miliband, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said Thatcher was "a unique and towering figure ... the prime minister who defined her age."