WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who helped bring peace to Bosnia and negotiated the release of American hostages in Iran, died in California at age 85.
Christopher "passed away peacefully, surrounded by family at his home in Los Angeles" late on Friday of complications from kidney and bladder cancer, his family said in a statement.
As the top U.S. statesman under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1997, Christopher was a behind-the-scenes negotiator. Often called the "stealth" secretary of state, he was known for his understated, self-effacing manner.
"As President Clinton's Secretary of State, he was a resolute pursuer of peace," President Barack Obama said on Saturday. "Warren Christopher was a skillful diplomat, a steadfast public servant, and a faithful American."
Christopher said that as a diplomat, careful listening was his secret weapon. "I observed some time ago that I was better at listening than at talking," The New York Times quoted him as saying in a 1981 speech when he was deputy secretary of state.
That secret weapon helped Christopher weather diplomatic crises and bring enemies together.
In 1995, he intervened during the crucial final days of the U.S.-brokered Bosnian peace talks at Dayton, Ohio. He had an important role in closing the deal, according to his deputy, Richard Holbrooke, the force behind the agreement.
Christopher not only spoke the language of diplomacy, he dressed the part. Favoring elegant, tailored suits, he was once named one of the best dressed men in America by People magazine for his "diplomatically dapper" style.
MIDDLE EAST WORK
As secretary of state, 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 Hezbollah.
In 1994, he witnessed the signing of a peace treaty between Jordan and Israel.
As President Jimmy Carter's deputy secretary of state, he negotiated the release of 52 Americans taken hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979. The hostages were freed on January 20, 1981, minutes after Ronald Reagan was sworn in to succeed Carter.
"Warren was a diplomat's diplomat -- talented, dedicated and exceptionally wise," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement. "As well as anyone in his generation, he understood the subtle interplay of national interests, fundamental values and personal dynamics that drive diplomacy."
Christopher received the Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. 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 Carter's human rights policies.
"Most talking is not glamorous," 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."
Christopher was born on October 27, 1925, in Scranton, North Dakota, and grew up in Los Angeles.
(Reporting by John O'Callaghan, Stacey Joyce and Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Doina Chiacu))