Rhodri Morgan said his goodbyes to colleagues at the Labour conference
Tributes are being paid to First Minister Rhodri Morgan who is to stand down as Labour leader in Wales.
Welsh Secretary Peter Hain said: "Rhodri is a great Welsh political leader with a unique popular touch."
Deputy first minister Ieuan Wyn Jones said Mr Morgan's contribution to Welsh politics was "extremely significant".
Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams said he was a "people person" but it "was time for a fresh start, fresh faces and fresh ideas".
Mr Jones, the Plaid Cymru leader said: "We all owe a debt of gratitude to Rhodri Morgan for the deft way in which he steered the devolution project following the problems caused by the resignation of Alun Michael.
"His political skills enabled the assembly to recover from a very difficult first few months.
"He now exits Wales' main stage after more than 9 years as First Minister, leaving devolution in a much stronger position. "
He added: "I thank him for his support during the last two years in government, and wish him well in his retirement."
Nick Bourne, leader of the Conservatives in the Welsh assembly, said he was "pleased the first minister has finally made a statement about his future"
"No-one can question his commitment to Wales and the assembly during his 10 years as first minister, or the important role he has played in Welsh political life.
Mr Bourne added: "What is important now is that at a time of economic crisis the Assembly has leadership, vision, and direction."
Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said: "Nobody can detract from Rhodri Morgan's commitment to Wales and to devolution. Rhodri has always been a kind and extremely personable colleague, a real people-person."
"I'll miss our political sparring and even his rugby anecdotes in the chamber but it really is time for a fresh start, fresh faces and fresh ideas in Cardiff Bay."
Counsel General Carwyn Jones , who is expected to join the race to replace Mr Morgan, said he has been "greatly inspired by his leadership".
"As someone who supported Rhodri when he stood for the leadership in 1999, I have felt privileged to have served under him in government.
He added: "Rhodri commands a vast amount of respect from people across the length and breadth Wales, irrespective of their political persuasion.
Huw Lewis, the Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney AM, another possible contender for the leadership race, said: "It is unlikely that any one figure will dominate Welsh politics for so long again.
"People from all walks of life feel a kind of ownership towards Rhodri that is quite unprecedented in modern politics."
'Clear red water'
Wales TUC general secretary Martin Mansfield said Mr Morgan has been a "good friend and key ally" to the trade union movement.
"Rhodri has been the driving force in the first decade of post-devolution Wales.," said Mr Mansfield.
"Over the best part of the last 10 years, Rhodri has led Wales with an intuitive understanding of the shared values and solidarity of communities the length and breadth of Wales," he said.
"His clear red water distinguishes a new, and specific Welsh-way which has made Wales a better nation."
Newport East AM John Griffiths said: "Rhodri has guided devolution through its birth pains and built its standing and credibility."