Former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who brokered the 1981 release of American hostages in Iran, has died of complications from kidney and bladder cancer.
The 85-year-old former top American diplomat was at his home in California, surrounded by family at the time of his death on Friday night.
For five decades he played a key role in American civic and public life, as a lawyer or negotiating foreign policy crises and helping investigate and resolve contentious U.S. domestic and political issues.
In tribute, President Barack Obama called Christopher "a resolute pursuer of peace," as well as a "skillful diplomat" and "steadfast public servant."
Christopher served as secretary of state from 1993 to 1997, in the first administration of Democrat Bill Clinton.
Christopher was known for his even-handed demeanor and as a tactician. He was often called on by American leaders to represent the U.S. in the most difficult international disputes during the 1980s and 1990s. In his 2001 book, "Chances of a Lifetime: A Memoir," Christopher said he viewed himself as a "steward, not proprietor, of an extraordinary public trust."
Even before becoming America's 63rd secretary of state in 1993, he played a crucial role in helping resolve the lengthy Iranian hostage crisis on the day that Ronald Reagan became the U.S. president in January 1981. He negotiated the release of 52 Americans who had been held by Tehran for 444 days. Their capture and failed attempts to rescue them played a key role in Mr. Reagan's presidential victory over then-President Jimmy Carter.
Over the years, Christopher also helped win U.S. congressional ratification of treaties returning American control of the Panama Canal to local authorities, presided over the normalization of U.S. diplomatic relations with China and negotiated repeated disputes in the Middle East and Balkans.
In the U.S., he investigated racial conflicts in the midwest city of Detroit and the California city of Los Angeles. He later headed a 1991 commission proposing reforms of the Los Angeles police department following riots that occurred after the police beating of an African-American motorist.
In 2000, Christopher supervised the Florida recount of disputed votes in that year's presidential election between then-Vice President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush. After a lengthy dispute, Mr. Bush emerged the winner under a U.S. Supreme Court decision and went on to serve two terms in the White House.