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Richard Holbrooke, ‘Giant of US Foreign Policy,’ Dies at 69

US Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke, 69, whose drive to end ethnic warring in the former Yugoslavia, open diplomatic relations with China and guide the Obama administration’s engagement with Afghanistan and Pakistan made him a global trouble-shooter for the US, died yesterday evening, reports Bloomberg.

The US State Department announced his death in a statement yesterday. He had undergone surgery to repair a tear in his aorta after falling ill on Dec. 10 while working at State Department headquarters in Washington.

Under four Democratic presidents, from Lyndon Johnson to Obama, Holbrooke worked on some of the most important diplomatic issues of his era, starting with Vietnam in the Johnson White House.

“Of this generation of Americans there is virtually no one who has had as long, sustained and brilliant attention to the nation’s interests abroad than has Richard Holbrooke,” said Frank Wisner, a former US ambassador to India and friend of Holbrooke. “Since the Vietnam War, there has been no issue of national significance that he has not paid attention to or worked on. His range is truly extraordinary.”

Holbrooke was probably best-known for his work as President Bill Clinton’s special mediator to end the war in Bosnia, which culminated in a 20-day negotiating session at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. The resulting Dayton Peace Accord, as it came to be known, divided Bosnia into a Muslim-Croat Federation and a Serbian Republic.

“In a lifetime of passionate, brilliant service on the front lines of war and peace, freedom and oppression, Richard Holbrooke saved lives, secured peace and restored hope for countless people around the world,” Clinton said in a statement.

Paying tribute, President Obama, speaking shortly before Holbrooke’s death was announced, called him “simply one of the giants of American foreign policy.” 

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