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First Black US top diplomat dies of Covid complications

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The former secretary of state described his role in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq War as "a blot" that will "always be a part of my record". AFP

First Black US top diplomat dies of Covid complications

Colin Powell, a US war hero and the first Black state secretary who saw his legacy tarnished when he made the case for war in Iraq in 2003, has died from complications from Covid-19. He was 84.

“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American,” the family said in a statement posted to social media on October 18.

The retired four-star general and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who served four presidents made his reputation as a man of honour distant from the political fray – an asset in the corridors of power.

After the 1991 Gulf War he was so widely respected that he was even touted as a future president of the US, but ultimately he never ran for the White House.

“General Powell is an American hero, an American example, and a great American story,” George W Bush said as he announced the nomination of Powell, the son of Jamaican immigrants who became the Republican president’s secretary of state in 2000.

“In directness of speech, his towering integrity, his deep respect for our democracy, and his soldier’s sense of duty and honour, Colin Powell demonstrates … qualities that will make him a great representative of all the people of this country.”

But he found it hard to live down his infamous February 2003 speech to the UN Security Council about the alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq – evidence which was later proven to be false.

“It’s a blot … and will always be a part of my record. It was painful. It’s painful now,” Powell said in a 2005 interview with ABC News.

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