Obama prays for Afghan envoy's recovery

Updated: 2010-12-12 13:33
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WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama on Saturday described Richard Holbrooke, his special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan who is "in critical condition" at hospital, as "a towering figure in American foreign policy."

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"Earlier today, I spoke to Richard Holbrooke's wife Kati and told her that (first lady) Michelle and I are praying for Richard," Obama said in a statement. "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."

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon were with Holbrooke at the hospital.

The 69-year-old veteran diplomat felt ill on Friday when he was working on the seventh floor of the US State Department building. The department said that he was "in critical condition" after doctors completed surgery to repair a tear in his aorta Saturday morning, and he has been joined by his family.

Holbrooke was appointed by Obama as the special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan on January 22, 2009.

"We continue to pray for his recovery, and support his family in this difficult time," Obama said.

Holbrooke, a veteran diplomat, is the only person to have held the Assistant Secretary of State position for two different regions of the world -- for Asia from 1977-1981 and Europe from 1994-1996 respectively.