Warren Christopher dies aged 85

 

Former US secretary of state Warren Christopher, who helped bring peace to Bosnia and negotiated the release of American hostages in Iran, has died in California at the age of 85.

Mr Christopher "passed away peacefully, surrounded by family at his home in Los Angeles" of complications from kidney and bladder cancer, KABC-TV quoted his family as saying in a statement last night.

As the top US official under former president Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1997, Mr Christopher was a behind-the-scenes negotiator. Often called the "stealth" secretary of state, he was known for his understated, self-effacing manner.

"Careful listening may be the secret weapon," the New York Times quoted him as saying in a 1981 speech when he was deputy secretary of state. "I observed some time ago that I was better at listening than at talking."

That "secret weapon" helped Mr Christopher weather diplomatic crises and bring enemies together.

In 1995, he intervened during the crucial final days of the US-brokered Bosnian peace talks at Dayton, Ohio. He had an important role in closing the deal, according to his then deputy, Richard Holbrooke, the force behind the agreement.

Mr Christopher not only spoke the language of diplomacy, he dressed the part. Favouring elegant, tailored suits, he was once named one of the best dressed men in America by People magazine for his "diplomatically dapper" style.

As secretary of state, Mr Christopher devoted much of his time to the Middle East. He made at least 18 trips to the region in pursuit of peace and a ceasefire in southern Lebanon between Israel and the pro-Iranian Islamic group Hizbullah.

In 1994, he witnessed the signing of a peace treaty between Jordan and Israel.

As  Jimmy Carter's deputy secretary of state, he negotiated the release of 52 Americans taken hostage at the US embassy in Tehran in 1979. The hostages were freed on January 20th, 1981, minutes after Ronald Reagan was sworn in to succeed Mr Carter.

Mr Christopher received the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, for his efforts. He also helped negotiate the Panama Canal treaty, worked on establishing normal relations with China and played a major role in developing Mr Carter's human rights policies.

"Most talking is not glamorous," Mr Christopher said in an address at Stanford University months after the Iranian hostage crisis ended. "Often it is tedious. It can be excruciating and exhausting. But talking can also tame conflict, lift the human condition and move us close to the ideal of peace."

Mr Christopher was born on October 27th, 1925, in Scranton, North Dakota, and grew up in Los Angeles.

Reuters