WASHINGTON (AFP) – Former US secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger, a career foreign service officer who served briefly as the top diplomat under president George H.W. Bush, died Saturday, officials said. He was 80.
“With the passing of former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, our nation has lost a distinguished diplomat and public servant,” President Barack Obama said in a statement released by the White House.
“Through more than four decades of service, first in the Army and then as a dedicated foreign service officer and statesman, Lawrence Eagleburger devoted his life to the security of our nation and to strengthening our ties with allies and partners,” Obama said.
Current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hailed Eagleburger as a strong voice and stalwart champion for America’s values,” adding that “his passing is America’s loss.”
Eagleburger, who ran the State Department for five months in 1992, was “one of the most capable and respected diplomats our foreign service ever produced,” Bush said in a statement, according to CNN.
“During one of the tensest moments of the Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein began attacking Israel with scud missiles trying cynically and cruelly to bait them into the conflict, we sent Larry to Israel to preserve our coalition,” Bush recalled.
“It was an inordinately complex and sensitive task, and his performance was nothing short of heroic,” he said.
“I mourn the loss of a true friend. He was a good man, and he will be missed.”
Eagleburger replaced James Baker at the post in August 1992, bringing with him decades of experience as a career diplomat and a solid knowledge of Middle East issues.
He had departed public service in 1984 to form a consulting firm with former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, but returned to become deputy secretary of state in 1989 at Bush’s insistence.