Paddy Ashdown, former Liberal Democrat leader, dies

The politician also served as High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina

FILE PHOTO: Paddy Ashdown, former leader of Britain's Liberal Democrat party, leaves the party's headquarters in central London, May 8, 2015. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo
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The former leader of Britain's Liberal Democrats Paddy Ashdown has died at the age of 77, his party said on Saturday.

Lord Ashdown, who also served as the international high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, said in November he had been diagnosed with bladder cancer.

"It is with great sadness that we announce that Paddy Ashdown passed away earlier this evening following a short illness," the party said on Twitter.

Sir Vince Cable, Liberal Democrats leader, said it was a "hugely sad day" for the party.

Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair said Lord Ashdown was a "political visionary" who was "motivated by values of compassion, decency and a profound commitment to make the world a better place".

"He was one of the most talented politicians never to hold high office, but as leader of the Liberal Democrats he nonetheless had a major impact on British political life," said Mr Blair, who was prime minister from 1997 to 2007.

"He had courage, personal and political, unafraid to speak his mind yet always open to the views of others. He was one of the least tribal politicians I have ever known."

Lord Ashdown became leader of the newly formed Liberal Democrats in 1988 following the merger of the Liberal Party with the Social Democrats.

He resigned in 1999 as leader and left front-line British politics in 2001.

Lord Ashdown later served as High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina between 2002 and 2006.

For nearly four years Lord Ashdown served as the de facto leader of Bosnia, earning a reputation as a no-nonsense implementer of tough measures to help the country recover from its 1992-1995 war.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: "Paddy Ashdown was an advocate for those others forgot, full of courage, integrity and immensely gifted.

"He served the people of the Balkans with passion and inspiration, an agent of reconciliation. He will be greatly missed."


Read more: The Bosnian war: The messy business of peace