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Holbrooke 'a towering figure' in US foreign policy: Obama

world Updated: Dec 12, 2010 10:44 IST

US President Barack Obama has described critically ill Richard Holbrooke as "a towering figure" in American foreign policy and said that he was praying for the recovery of the "tireless public servant", who is a key member of his Af-Pak team.

69-year-old Holbrooke, the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, is in critical condition following a surgery yesterday to repair a tear in his aorta.

Obama spoke to Holbrooke's wife Kati and told her that he and the First Lady are praying for him.

"Richard Holbrooke is a towering figure in American foreign policy, a critical member of my Afghanistan and Pakistan team and a tireless public servant who has won the admiration of the American people and people around the world," the President said.

"I know that Secretary (of State, Hillary) Clinton, Admiral (Mike) Mullen (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), Tom Donilon (National Security Adviser), and other members of our team have been with him at George Washington hospital, and we continue to pray for his recovery, and support his family in this difficult time," Obama said in a statement.

The top US diplomat was admitted to the intensive care unit of the George Washington University after he fell ill at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department.

"... doctors completed surgery to repair a tear in his aorta. He is in critical condition and has been joined by his family," State Department spokesman, P J Crowley, said on Saturday.

Holbrooke, who fell ill when the annual Af-Pak policy review of White House was being carried out, is the Obama Administration's point man for Afghanistan and Pakistan.