News Ex-US secretary of state Colin Powell dies from COVID-19 complications
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Ex-US secretary of state Colin Powell dies from COVID-19 complications

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Colin Powell, the first black US secretary of state and a top military officer who made the case for war with Iraq, has died from COVID-19 complications.

The 84-year-old was fully vaccinated, his family said in a statement on Facebook.

“We want to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their caring treatment,” Mr Powell’s family wrote.

“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American.”

Mr Powell was one of the most prominent black figures in the US for decades.

He will forever be associated with his controversial speech on February 5, 2003, to the UN Security Council, making president George W Bush’s case that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein constituted an imminent danger to the world because of its stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.

He admitted later that the presentation was rife with inaccuracies and twisted intelligence provided by others in the Bush administration and represented “a blot” that will “always be a part of my record”.

Mr Powell had served three Republican presidents in senior posts and reached the top of the US military as it was regaining its vigour after the trauma of the Vietnam War.

As a four-star army general, he was chairman of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George HW Bush during the 1991 Gulf War in which US-led forces expelled Iraqi troops from neighbouring Kuwait.

A moderate Republican and a pragmatist, he later served as secretary of state under President George W Bush.

“Many presidents relied on General Powell’s counsel and experience,” the younger Mr Bush wrote in a tribute to Mr Powell on Tuesday morning.

“He was such a favourite of presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom – twice.”

Mr Powell had considered running for president in 1996 but his wife Alma’s worries about his safety helped him decide otherwise.

In 2008, he broke with his party to endorse Democrat Barack Obama, the first black person elected to the White House.

Illustrating his deep misgivings about the evolution of the Republican Party, Mr Powell later endorsed Democrats Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election and Joe Biden last year against Donald Trump.

Mr Powell called Mr Trump a liar who presented a danger to the US.

– with AAP