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Former UN chief Javier Perez de Cuellar dies at 100

Mr Perez de Cuellar was lauded by his countrymen as one of the most illustrious Peruvians of his era.


FORMER United Nations (UN) chief Javier Perez de Cuellar, known for his peace-making efforts including brokering a ceasefire in the Iran-Iraq war, died on Wednesday in his native country, Peru, aged 100, his son said.

Mr Perez de Cuellar served as UN secretary-general from 1981 to 1991, when he was often described as a "pacifist by vocation and nature".

Lauded by his countrymen as one of the most illustrious Peruvians of his era, he led the world body through a period marked by the fight against world hunger, the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq, as well as the civil war in US-supported El Salvador, which led to UN-mediated peace talks.

His son Francisco told a Peruvian radio station: "My dad died after a complicated week. He died at 8.09pm tonight (9.09 am Thursday, Singapore time) and is resting in peace."

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The elder Mr Perez de Cuellar was known for his efforts to reconcile warring parties. He played a crucial role in ending the Iran-Iraq war, securing the release of American hostages held in Lebanon and in peace agreements in Cambodia and El Salvador, the UN said.

He considered the 1990 independence of Namibia, one of the last colonial enclaves on the African continent, his greatest accomplishment as secretary-general.

Current UN chief Antonio Guterres said he was "profoundly saddened" at the passing of his predecessor.

"I extend my deepest condolences to Mr Perez de Cuellar's family, the Peruvian people and so many others around the world whose lives were touched by a remarkable and compassionate global leader who left our world a far better place," he said.

Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra expressed deep regrets on Twitter over the death of "a distinguished Peruvian, a democrat through and through, who dedicated his entire life to working to improve our country".

Mr Perez de Cuellar's popularity prompted him to accept the presidential nomination from one of Peru's leading political parties - the Union for Peru - in 1995, which pitted him against then-incumbent president Alberto Fujimori.

The unifying force behind the Union for Peru, he won only 21.8 per cent of the vote, coming in second behind Mr Fujimori, who got 64.4 per cent.

In 1997, informants revealed that Mr Perez de Cuellar had been subject to systematic surveillance and phone tapping during the campaign, ordered by the head of Mr Fujimori's intelligence services, Vladimiro Montesinos.

Following the collapse of the Fujimori regime in November 2000, the former UN chief was appointed head of a government of "unity and national reconciliation".

As prime minister, he helped expose a web of corruption woven by Mr Montesinos over the course of Mr Fujimori's 10-year rule.

After the election of president Alejandro Toledo in 2001, he was appointed ambassador to France.

Born into an upper middle-class family in Lima and educated in Catholic schools, he spent most of his professional life outside his homeland, in diplomatic posts in Britain, Bolivia, Poland, the former Soviet Union, Switzerland and Venezuela.

He was president of the UN Security Council from 1973 to 1974 and was UN permanent representative in Cyprus from 1975 to 1977.

His remains will lie at the Peruvian foreign ministry before burial on Friday, his son said. AFP

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