Boris Johnson has paid tribute to former US diplomat and military commander Colin Powell, hailing him as “an impressive and internationally respected” statesman who would continue to inspire others.
General Powell, 84, died from Covid-19 complications despite being fully vaccinated, his family said.
He was the first African American to serve as both as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and as the secretary of state, and was touted a possible president.
However he may be best remembered for making the case for the 2003 invasion of Iraq based on what turned out to be false intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction – an intervention he later deeply regretted.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Mr Johnson said he was “very sorry” to hear of his death.
“He was an impressive and internationally respected statesman,” he said.
“He leaves a lasting legacy and I’m sure his life will continue to be an inspiration to many.”
Former prime minister Tony Blair said Gen Powell was a “towering figure” who “still had so much to give”.
Mr Blair, who led the UK into the Iraq war alongside the US, said: “Colin was a towering figure in American military and political leadership over many years, someone of immense capability and integrity, a hugely likeable and warm personality and a great companion, with a lovely and self-deprecating sense of humour.
“He was wonderful to work with, he inspired loyalty and respect and was one of those leaders who always treated those under them with kindness and concern.
“His life stands as a testament not only to dedicated public service but also a strong belief in willingness to work across partisan division in the interests of his country. He still had so much to give.”
Former prime minister Sir John Major, who led Britain into the first Gulf War when Gen Powell was head of the US military, said he was an inspiration to all who had served with him.
“Colin Powell was one of the finest men I ever met. And, perhaps, one of the finest Americans never to be president,” Sir John said.
“Both in the military and in government he led with calm authority, and was an inspiration to all those who served alongside him.
“During the first Gulf War – as chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff – we could not have wished for a stronger ally, nor one who commanded such affection and respect from our own armed forces.
“Throughout his long and exceptional career, Colin served with honour and distinction. He was a true public servant, who I was proud to call a friend.”
The charge d’affaires at the US embassy in London, Philip Reeker, who worked with Gen Powell at the State Department, said he was a “true statesman”.
“It was a great honour to work for Secretary Powell at the State Department,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter.
“As his deputy spokesperson, I could never have hoped to speak as well as the General himself, but what an honour it was to give voice to his words.
“He was a true statesman.”