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World pays tribute to Holbrooke
BRUSSELS (AP) — They remembered him as “the Bulldozer” — a U.S. diplomat with such a forceful persona he could drag politicians, military brass and even warlords to the negotiating table in a quest for peace.
World leaders on Tuesday praised U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke for engineering the end of the 1992-95 Bosnia war — Europe’s bloodiest conflict since World War II — and for seeking to bring stability to war-torn Afghanistan.
Even Mr. Holbrooke’s main opponent in the war in Bosnia, Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, expressed “sadness and regret” over Mr. Holbrooke’s unexpected death Monday following surgery for a tear in his aorta. Mr. Karadzic had been hoping to call Mr. Holbrooke to testify in his genocide trial.
But in Afghanistan, the Taliban rejoiced at news of his death, claiming it was caused by failures in the U.S.-led war there and Mr. Holbrooke’s “grappling with a constant psychological stress” from his position as President Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“The protracted Afghan war and the descending trajectory of the Americans’ handling of the warfare in the country had a lethal dent on Holbrooke’s health,” the group said on jihadi Web sites monitored by SITE Intelligence Group, a private U.S.-based group that tracks Islamic militant communications.
In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen paid tribute to Mr. Holbrooke’s legendary diplomatic skills, saying he played an essential role in the 1995 Dayton Agreement that ended the Bosnian war and lauding his work in Afghanistan.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani leader Asif Ali Zardari also praised Mr. Holbrooke, who died at 69, though Mr. Holbrooke’s style did not play as well with Mr. Karzai as it did with Balkan leaders.
Aides said Mr. Karzai considered the American envoy ignorant of Afghan culture. Perhaps as a result, Mr. Holbrooke played a less visible role in Afghanistan, with Sen. John Kerry taking the main role in persuading Mr. Karzai to agree to a runoff election in 2009.
“We will always remember … his efforts for promoting peace and stability in our region, with a deep sense of appreciation and gratitude,” Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said in Islamabad.
“We regret with all our heart that he will not be able to witness the success of the new strategy,” Mr. Westerwelle said in Brussels.
Mr. Holbrooke earned the nickname “the Bulldozer” after he bullied warring Serbs, Croats and Muslims to agree to end the Bosnian war with sometimes risky diplomatic overtures.
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
Memories of a long brotherhood tempered in common struggle
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