Obama honours Holbrooke as ‘hardheaded’ and ‘clear-eyed’

Friday, January 14, 2011

WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama and other American dignitaries celebrated the life of late diplomat Richard Holbrooke Friday, honouring his endless determination to make the world a better place.

Hundreds turned out at the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington to attend the memorial service for Holbrooke, who died suddenly in December at the age of 69 while serving as Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“Richard possessed a hardheaded, cleared-eyed realism about how the world works,” Obama said, accompanied on stage by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, former president Bill Clinton, members of Holbrooke’s family and former State Department colleagues.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari was also in attendance.

Holbrooke returned to the diplomatic ranks shortly after Obama came to office in January 2009, agreeing to lead the US civilian effort to turn the tide against the Taliban. He made dozens of trips to the region.

Holbrooke was best known as the chief architect of the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords, which ended the Bosnian civil war after months of tireless and relentless diplomacy backed by a NATO bombing campaign. He also served as ambassador to Germany in his decades of diplomatic service.

Holbrooke was also known for an abrasive style and for being aggressive and egotistical, but it was those traits, many believed, that led to his success and his ability to hammer out the Bosnian peace deal.

Obama remarked that in Bosnia, Holbrooke “negotiated and cajoled and threatened all at once until peace was the only outcome possible”.

Holbrooke collapsed at the State Department Dec 10 following a massive tear in his aorta and died days later after surgeons were unable to save his life. His death prompted messages of condolences from around the world.

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