March 19, 2011 7:43:00 AM
WASHINGTON, March 19 (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, news media reported.
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 late on Friday.
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.
"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 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 then 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.
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 Jan. 20, 1981, minutes after Ronald Reagan was sworn in to succeed Carter.
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 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 Oct. 27, 1925, in Scranton, North Dakota, and grew up in Los Angeles. (Reporting by John O'Callaghan; Additional reporting by Stacey Joyce; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)
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