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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

US war hero and senator John McCain dies at 81

McCain was a fierce critic of Iran, a supporter of the Syrian uprising and regretful of the Iraq War

War hero and former presidential nominee Senator John McCain died on Saturday after a year-long battle with an aggressive brain tumour.

A senator for three decades, 81-year-old McCain said on Friday he had stopped medical treatment for the tumour he was diagnosed with in July 2017. He died in Cornville, Arizona, surrounded by the people he loved, a family statement said.

“My heart is broken. I am so lucky to have lived the adventure of loving this incredible man for 38 years. He passed the way he lived, on his own terms, surrounded by the people he loved, in the place he loved best,” said his wife Cindy.

“Now that he is gone, the task of a lifetime is to live up to his expectations, and his love. In the 33 years we shared together, he raised me, taught me, corrected me, comforted me, encouraged me, and supported me in all things,” McCain’s daughter Meghan said.

“My father’s passing comes with sorrow and grief for me, for my mother, for my brothers and for my sisters. He was a great fire who burned bright, and we lived in his light and warmth for so very long. We know that his flame lives on, in each of us."

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A navy pilot, a prisoner of war in Vietnam, a foreign policy hawk and a champion of centrism in Washington and democracy abroad - John McCain was no ordinary senator.

The son of a Navy admiral, McCain often bridged Senate divisions, causing tributes from all sides of the political spectrum to pour in after the announcement of his death.

US President Donald Trump and former presidents released statements honouring McCain’s life. Barack Obama who ran against him in 2008, praised his courage to put “the greater good above our own”.

During his six-decade long journey, McCain broke with his own party on issues such as immigration, health care, Guantanamo Bay and campaign financing. He also fought battles against the confederate flag and challenged stereotypes about Muslims and other minorities.

He supported the rise of democracy in the Middle East and backed Syria's uprisings against the regime of Bashar Al Assad in 2011.

He visited Northern Syria and met with the armed opposition, but failed to convince the Obama administration to increase support to the rebels.

A staunch opponent of the Iranian government and the nuclear deal, McCain accused Iran in 2017 of "getting away with murder" and praised Mr Trump’s decision to leave the deal.

Despite supporting Mr Trump's views on Iran, McCain was mostly critical of the US president. He reportedly asked that Mr Trump did not attend his funeral.

During the Presidential campaign, Mr Trump said McCain was “no war hero” and up until his last days the Republican Senator blasted the White House policy and “naivete” in handling Russia.

He was also known to be a friend and an ally to Gulf countries. In 2017 he visited the UAE twice and met Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

Writing on Twitter, Sheikh Mohammed offered his condolences to McCain's family, saying "we shared a long friendship and worked together to strengthen bilateral co-operation".

McCain was also known for admitting to his mistakes. In his final memoir, The Restless Wave, he admitted to regretting the Iraq War.

On his decision in 2003, he wrote, “can’t be judged as anything other than a mistake, a very serious one, and I have to accept my share of the blame for it”.

In 2017, he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, the same aggressive form of brain cancer that took the life of another admired Senator, Ted Kennedy, in 2009.

“This is a sad day for the United States. Our country has lost a decorated war hero and statesman. John McCain was a giant of our time – not just for the things he achieved, but for who he was and what he fought for all his life. John put principle before politics,” said Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

“He put country before self. He was one of the most courageous men of the century. He will always be listed among freedom’s most gallant and faithful servants,” he said.

Afghanistan's President, Ashraf Ghani, said McCain was a "great friend of Afghanistan".

"We will remember his dedication and support towards rebuilding Afghanistan", he said, referencing McCain's support for the US military's efforts in the country.

The American actress, Whoopi Goldberg, said McCain "never stopped trying to do his best".