Holbrooke eulogised by Obama,other leaders at memorial service

Lalit K Jha

Washington, Jan 15 (PTI) US President Barack Obama joinedworld leaders in paying rich tributes to late Special Envoyfor Af-Pak region Richard Holbrooke, calling him a leadinglight who served the country until his final moments.

"It is no coincidence that his life story so closelyparalleled the major events of his times," Obama said,eulogising Holbrooke, who died on December 13, at a memorialceremony, also attended by visiting Pakistan President AsifAli Zardari yesterday.

Former President Bill Clinton, Secretary of StateHillary Clinton, a large number of Special Representatives forAfghanistan and Pakistan, Foreign Ministers and more than 120diplomats, including Indian Ambassador Meera Shankar, alsotook part in the memorial ceremony held at the prestigiousKennedy Centre

"The list of places he (Holbrooke) served and the thingshe did reads as a chronicle of American foreign policy," Obamasaid. "Richard possessed a hard-headed, clear-eyed realismabout how the world works. He was not naive. But he alsobelieved that America has a unique responsibility in thecourse of human events."

Obama also announced the creation of an annualRichard Holbrooke Award to honour excellence in Americandiplomacy.

"Richard is gone now, but we carry with us histhirst to know, to grasp, and to heal the world around him.

His legacy is seen in the children of Bosnia who lived toraise families of their own; in a Europe that is peaceful andunited and free; in young boys and girls from tribal regionsof Pakistan to whom he pledged our country''s friendship; andin the role that America continues to play as a light to allwho aspire to live in freedom and in dignity," he said.

Stating that Holbrooke had secured his place in history,Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: "I am confident thatthe work he had done and was doing in Afghanistan and Pakistanwill also stand the test of time."

"I personally received the Richard Holbrooke treatmentmany times. He would give me homework. He would declare that Ihad to take one more meeting, make one more stop. There was noescaping him. He would follow me onto a stage as I was aboutto give a speech, or into my hotel room, or, on at least oneoccasion, into a ladies'' room ... in Pakistan," Clinton saidamidst laughter and applause from the audience. (More) PTI LKJ

"There are few people in any time, but certainly in our time, who can say, I stopped a war. I made peace. I savedlives. I helped countries heal. Richard Holbrooke did thesethings. He believed that great men and women could changehistory. And he did. He wanted to be a great man so he couldchange history. He was, and he did," Clinton said.

Noting that his "real relationship" with Holbrooke beganalmost 20 years ago, former US President Bill Clinton said thetop diplomat did "many great things in his life, and he wouldbe the first to say he did not do that alone.

"But ending the worst killing in Europe since WorldWar II and giving Europe the chance to be united, whole andfree was a very big deal. He could do. And he could do inmatters big and small."

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral MikeMullen, remembered Holbrooke as a man who "understood,better than I, the very wisdom of seeking wisdom."

"He was the quintessential Washington know-it-all,"Mullen joked. "The man was monumentally, if not exasperatinglyinterested in everything -- art, music, culture, religion,politics. How he loved to talk politics. I''m happy to say Inever challenged him in that theater. I just nodded till hewas finished and then slid him the check," Mullen continued,eliciting laughter from the audience.

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