TONY Blair and Theresa May have joined politicians from around the world in paying tribute to former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, who has died at the age of 80.
Mr Annan, who became the first black African to lead the world body, died yesterday following a short illness.
Mr Blair, whose time in No 10 coincided closely with Mr Annan’s tenure in office, said he had been a “true statesman”, while Mrs May said he had made a “huge contribution” to making the world a better place.
A career diplomat from Ghana, Mr Annan served two terms as secretary general from 1997 to 2006.
In 2001, he was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in recognition of his efforts in fighting for human rights and revitalising the UN.
He clashed with the Blair government and the US administration of George Bush over the 2003 invasion of Iraq, later describing his failure to prevent the war – a conflict he denounced as illegal – as the “darkest moment” of his time in office.
Despite their differences, Mr Blair said they had remained good friends.
“I’m shocked and distressed to hear the news about Kofi. He was a good friend whom I saw only weeks ago,” he said in a statement.
“Kofi Annan was a great diplomat, a true statesman and a wonderful colleague who was widely respected and will be greatly missed.”
Mr Blair’s successor and former Kirkcaldy MP Gordon Brown, the UN special envoy for global education, said: “Kofi Annan was a leader of leaders, a wonderful humanitarian and the most compassionate and caring of individuals.”
Mrs May added: “He made a huge contribution to making the world he has left a better place than the one he was born into.”