US & Canada

World leaders gather for Richard Holbrooke memorial

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Media captionPresident Obama said Mr Holbrooke liked to make a difference

US and world leaders have honoured Richard Holbrooke, the US diplomat who died last month at 69, praising him as a giant in foreign policy.

Mr Holbrooke, a diplomatic veteran, was President Barack Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Mourners included Mr Obama, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton.

Mr Holbrooke was credited in part with ending war in the Balkans in the 1990s.

The ceremony took place on Friday afternoon at the Kennedy Center in Washington.

Mr Obama, who had previously hailed Mr Holbrooke as a "true giant of American foreign policy", addressed the memorial service.

"Richard is gone now, but we carry with us his thirst to know, to grasp and heal the world around us," Mr Obama said during a speech at the centre.

The president said Holbrooke, whose diplomatic service reached back to the Vietnam War era, understood the need for "realism and idealism" in foreign policy, adding that young US diplomats should be encouraged to "stay in public service" and continue serving their country.

Mr Obama then announced the creation of an annual award in Mr Holbrooke's name to honour excellence in foreign diplomacy.

Mrs Clinton spoke last, calling Mr Holbrooke "her inspiration, greatest headache, always a friend".

In a career alternating between financial executive and diplomat, Mr Holbrooke was perhaps best known as the architect of the 1995 Dayton peace accords that ended three years of war in Bosnia.

After Mr Obama took office in 2009, Mr Holbrooke's skills and temperament were tested in his efforts to get Kabul and Islamabad effectively to fight the region's resurgent Taliban and al-Qaeda militant groups.

Mr Holbrooke was meeting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the US state department in December when he collapsed.

He was rushed to the US capital's George Washington University Hospital, where he later died.

Earlier, Mr Obama and Mr Zardari met in the White House to discuss the crucial relationship between their two countries.

Image caption Holbrooke had served under Democratic presidents since the Vietnam War era

Mr Obama pledged continued support for Pakistan, and said he would visit the country later this year, the White House said.

Senior state department adviser Vali Nasr has told the BBC the US challenge is to convince Pakistanis that the relationship is beneficial for both countries, and not just in Washington's interest.

The BBC's Lyse Doucet in Washington says worries about Pakistan's weak government have been heightened by the troubling show of support for the killer of one of Pakistan's leading liberal voices, Salman Taseer.

The shooting revealed a growing militancy and a polarisation across the country, our correspondent says.

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