WASHINGTON - Richard Holbrooke, a brilliant and feisty U.S. diplomat who wrote part of the Pentagon Papers, was the architect of the 1995 Bosnia peace plan and served as President Barack Obama's special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, died , an administration official said. He was 69.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the family had yet to make a formal announcement of the death.

Holbrooke, whose forceful style earned him nicknames such as "The Bulldozer" and "Raging Bull," was admitted to the hospital Friday after becoming ill at the State Department. The former U.S. ambassador to the UN had surgery Saturday to repair a tear in his aorta, the body's principal artery.

Earlier , Obama praised Holbrooke for making America safer. "He is simply one of the giants of American foreign policy," Obama said. Obama met briefly with Holbrooke's family before his remarks.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also hailed Holbrooke's long service. "He has given nearly 50 years of his life to serving the United States," Clinton said.

Holbrooke served under every Democratic president from John F. Kennedy to Obama in a career that began with a foreign service posting in Vietnam in 1962 after graduating from Brown University, and included time as a member of the U.S. delegation to the Paris Peace Talks on Vietnam.

His sizable ego, tenacity and willingness to push hard for diplomatic results won him both admiration and animosity.

"If Richard calls you and asks you for something, just say yes," former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said. "If you say no, you'll eventually get to yes, but the journey will be very painful."

The bearish Holbrooke said he has no qualms about "negotiating with people who do immoral things." "If you can prevent the deaths of people still alive, you're not doing a disservice to those already killed by trying to do so," he said in 1999.

Born in New York City on April 24, 1941, Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke was at the Johnson White House when he wrote one volume of the Pentagon Papers, an internal government study of U.S. involvement in Vietnam completed in 1967.

After stints in and out of government Holbrooke became assistant secretary of state for Asian affairs from 1977-81.

He returned to public service when Bill Clinton took the White House in 1993. Holbrooke was U.S. ambassador to Germany from 1993 to 1994 and then assistant secretary of state for European affairs. One of his signature achievements was brokering the Dayton Peace Accords that ended the war in Bosnia.

"What's the point of being in the government if you don't try to make things better, which means trying to change things," Holbrooke said in 2001 of his time at the UN.

Holbrooke is survived by his wife, author Kati Marton, and two sons.

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