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Ashdown, British Marine Who Led Bosnia, Dies at 77 

Europe

23 December 2018, 05:27

M.News

Paddy Ashdown, who died Saturday at age 77, was a former marine and British opposition politician who served as the top international envoy in Bosnia following the Yugoslav wars, reports VOA News.

Ashdown stepped down from his post in Bosnia in 2006 after nearly four years in charge but had been at the forefront of peace efforts in the Balkans long before his stint.

Taking over the role after Sweden’s Carl Bildt, Carlos Westendorp of Spain and Austria’s Wolfgang Petritsch, Ashdown quickly built a reputation as a no-nonsense implementer of tough measures to help the country recover from its 1992-95 war.

During his mandate, Ashdown sacked corrupt officials and Bosnia completed some painful reforms aimed at strengthening central institutions at the expense of the two postwar entities — the Serbs’ Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation.

Defense, tax reforms

They notably included defense reforms aimed at merging two ethnically divided armies into one, as well as police force and customs and tax reforms.

In 2008, he was on the brink of being appointed as the U.N. envoy to Afghanistan but withdrew from the role, saying that he did not have the backing of the Afghan government.

Born in India in 1941, and known as “Paddy” after the accent he acquired from spending part of his childhood in Northern Ireland, John Jeremy Durham Ashdown left school at 18 and joined the marines.

He left the armed forces in 1971 after spending his early years in uniform in Northern Ireland, Borneo and Malaya. He joined the Foreign Office, which sent him as part of the British delegation to the United Nations in Geneva.

Five years later he returned to Britain, where before entering politics he worked as a businessman and social worker.

Ashdown’s gritty attitude and enormous energy levels were largely responsible for transforming the Liberal Democrats from political also-rans into a viable opposition party.

Shortly after he took the reins of the party in 1988, support had dwindled to 3 percent. But Ashdown soon made some significant gains from the Conservative government and was polled in the early 1990s as the most-liked British party leader.

His profile soared again in 1992 when he disclosed that, five years earlier, he had had a five-month-long affair with his former secretary, earning him the nickname “Paddy Pantsdown” in The Sun tabloid.

At his final elections in 1997, the Liberal Democrats won 19 percent of the vote, securing the party 46 seats, then a record showing for a third party in Britain.

Ashdown was staunchly pro-federalist toward Europe and favored a common European foreign and defense policy independent of the United States.

He campaigned for Britain to stay in the European Union in the 2016 referendum and, after losing, founded a cross-party centrist movement called More United.

He was knighted under his real name of Jeremy in 2000 and was made a member of Parliament’s upper House of Lords.

Married, with two children, Ashdown lived in Yeovil, southwest England.