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Biden praised Kissinger in life, offers measured reaction on his death



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By Heather Timmons

WASHINGTON, Nov 30 (Reuters) -As Senate Foreign Relations Chair, Joe Biden offered effusive praise of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger when the veteran diplomat spoke to Congress in 2007.

Kissinger's name is "synonymous with effective diplomacy, effective American diplomacy, and, I think few would argue with the fact, one of the best strategic minds in the country," Biden said in 2007, introducing Kissinger to a committee hearing on the future of Iraq, a transcript shows.

Biden referenced how much he had learned from Kissinger, too. "One of the things I’ve noticed in my long years of having an opportunity to learn from you is, we should always have alternative plans," Biden said, wrapping up his introduction by promising Kissinger a "receptive and friendly" audience in the hearing.

Fifteen years later, Biden's White House took a more distant approach, waiting about 24 hours to issue a statement after Kissinger died at age 100 on Wednesday.

Biden said he first met Kissinger when he was a young Democratic senator from Delaware and he was secretary of state.

"Throughout our careers, we often disagreed. And often strongly. But from that first briefing - his fierce intellect and profound strategic focus was evident," Biden said.

Biden said after Kissinger retired from government "he continued to offer his views and ideas to the most important policy discussion across multiple generations."

"Jill and I send our condolences to his wife Nancy, his children Elizabeth and David, his grandchildren, and all those who loved him," he said on Thursday.

Kissinger was the architect of the U.S. diplomatic opening with China, landmark U.S.-Soviet arms control talks, expanded ties between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and the Paris Peace Accords with North Vietnam.

While many hailed Kissinger for his brilliance and statesmanship, others branded him a war criminal for his support for anti-communist dictatorships, especially in Latin America

Earlier, the White House and other Biden officials offered carefully worded condolences. “It’s a huge loss,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Thursday, noting Kissinger’s military service during World War Two and years of public service afterward.

“Whether you saw eye to eye with him on every issue there’s no question that he shaped foreign policy decisions for decades and he certainly had an impact on America’s role in the world," Kirby said.



Reporting by Heather Timmons and Steve Holland; Editing by Caitlin Webber and Stephen Coates

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