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Kofi Annan, former U.N. secretary-general, dies at age 80

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Kofi Annan, a charismatic global diplomat and the first black African to become United Nations secretary-general who led the world body through one of its most turbulent periods, died early Saturday at age 80.

Tributes flowed in from around the world after his foundation announced his death in the Swiss capital, Bern, after a short and unspecified illness. The statement remembered the Nobel Peace Prize winner as “radiating genuine kindness, warmth and brilliance in all he did.”

He died “peacefully in his sleep,” the president of Ghana, where Annan was born, said after speaking to his wife.

At U.N. headquarters in New York, the U.N. flag flew at half-staff and a bouquet of flowers was placed under Annan’s portrait. Reflecting the widespread regard that won him a groundbreaking uncontested election to a second term, leaders from Russia, India, Israel, France and elsewhere expressed condolences for a man Bill Gates called “one of the great peacemakers of our time.”

Annan spent virtually his entire career as an administrator in the United Nations. His aristocratic style, cool-tempered elegance and political savvy helped guide his ascent to become its seventh secretary-general, and the first hired from within. His two terms were from Jan. 1, 1997, to Dec. 31, 2006, capped nearly midway when he and the U.N. were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. (AP)

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Former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan, on March 3, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo: Inga Kjer/Photothek via Getty Images)

Liberian politician Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (L), former secretary-general of the United Nations Kofi Annan, former Algerian United Nations politician Lakhdar Brahimi (R) attend the Elders walk together for 100 Sparks of Hope to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s 100th Anniversary at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg on July 18, 2018. (Photo: Gulshan Khan/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) prepares to shake hands with United Nations envoy Kofi Annan during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow July 17, 2012. (Photo: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters)

Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan participates in a panel discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, Sept. 24, 2009. (Photo: Chip East/Reuters)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) and Arab League Joint Special Envoy for Syria Kofi Annan make their statements to the media before their meeting at the State Department in Washington, June 8, 2012. (Photo: Gary Cameron/Reuters)

Former U.N. chief Kofi Annan (C) and Graca Machel (2nd R), wife of Nelson Mandela, tour Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, Dec. 7, 2009. (Photo: Noor Khamis/Reuters)

Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan displays a AK47 gun transformed to a guitar at Vienna’s U.N. headquarters Sept. 11, 2007. (Photo: Herwig Prammer/Reuters)

Nelson Mandela and former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan arrive together at the 5th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, held at the Linder Auditorium in Johannesburg, South Africa onJuly 22, 2007. (Photo: AP)

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (C) and Commander of United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Alain Pellegrini (2nd R) arrive to visit troops at the U.N. base in Naqoura near the port city of Tyre (Soure) Aug. 29, 2006. (Photo: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters)

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan takes his seat in the General Assembly Hall after arriving for the swearing in ceremony for the new Secretary- General, South Korean, Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations in New York, Dec. 14, 2006. (Photo: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan (L) arrives with “Make Poverty History” organiser Bob Geldof (C) and U2 lead singer Bono for a session of the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, July 8, 2005. (Photo: WPA pool/AP/Alistair Grant/Pool/Reuters)

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (L) speaks to a woman, who is describing how her hut was attacked, during his visit to the town of Labado in south Darfur May 28, 2005. Annan toured a refugee camp and a burned down town in Darfur on Saturday, hearing calls for African troops to play a bigger role in protecting those living in the troubled region of Sudan. (Photo: Evan Schneider/Reuters)

United Nations Secretary General Annan visits a camp for tsunami survivors at Cabeer Jumma mosque in Hambantota. United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan (2nd R) is accompanied by Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapksha (R) while visiting a camp for tsunami survivors, set up at Cabeer Jumma mosque in Hambantota, eastern Sri Lanka, Jan. 8, 2005. (Photo: Yves Herman/Reuters)

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan (R) and his wife Nane chat with an HIV-infected patient at a hospital in Bangkok July 12, 2004. Annan led a U.N. delegation to visit the Bamradnaradoon hospital, hailed by the organization’s AIDS agency as a model for the treatment of AIDS patients in southeast Asia. (Photo: Sukree Sukplang/Reuters)

Pope John Paul II greets United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan during a private meeting at the Pope’s library in the Vatican, Feb. 18, 2003. Both the Pope and Annan agreed that the U.N. was essential to solving the Iraqi crisis. (Photo: Vatican/Reuters)

The Nobel Peace Prize is presented in Oslo City Hall, Norway December 10, 2001, to the United Nations and its secretary general, Kofi Annan (R) by the Director General of the The Norwegian Nobel Committee, Gunnar Berge. The United Nations and its Secretary-General Kofi Annan collected the centenary Nobel Peace Prize on Monday for their work for a better organised and more peaceful world. (Photo: Stringer/Reuters)

President George W. Bush and the Secretary-General of the<br />United Nations Kofi Annan visit “Ground Zero” at the World Trade Center<br />for a memorial service in New York, Nov. 11, 2001. (Photo: Larry<br />Downing/Reuters)

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan answers questions at a joint media briefing with Israeli Foreign Miniser Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, June 17, 2001. Annan has urged Palestinians and Israelis to “seize the moment” and work to turn their fragile four-day-old cease-fire into a search for a true peace settlement. (Photo: Natalie Behring/Reuters)

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, left, gestures as he speaks to reporters, while Secretary-General Kofi Annan, right, sits next to him during a news conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Monday, Jan. 29, 2001. (Photo: Michel Euler/AP)

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan consoles family members of victims of last April’s massacre by pro-Indonesia militia in Liquisa, 30 km west of DIli, Feb. 17, 2000. (Photo: Darren Whiteside/Reuters)

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, left, talks with Cuban President Fidel Castro during a welcoming ceremony for Annan at the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana Tuesday, April 11, 2000. (Photo: Jose Goitia/AP)

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan reaches to touch a small Albanian refugee girl as he visits the Stankovic refugee camp on May 19, 1999 in Macedonia. (Photo: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters)

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and his wife Nane, left, pose with jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, and tenor Luciano Pavarotti before the performers’ recital at the United Nations to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Thursday, Dec. 10, 1998. (Photo: Ron Frehm/AP)

President Bill Clinton (C) shakes hands with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan as U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright looks on (R) as the three met in Mr. Annan’s at U.N. headquarters in New York, Sept. 21, 1998, for his address to the 53rd United Nations General Asembly. (Photo: Stringer/Reuters)

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan shakes hands with a Rwandan genocide survivor as he leaves a memorial site for the 1994 genocide in Mwulire, Rwanda, 50 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of the capital Kigali Friday, May 8, 1998. (Photo: Brennan Linsley/AP)

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan (R) accepts a pair of boxing gloves from former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali during a ceremony at the United Nations in New York on Sept. 15, 1998. Annan declared Ali a “Messenger of Peace” at their meeting which was one of several International Day of Peace events at the U.N. (Photo: Stringer/Reuters)

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan (L) and Jordan’s Crown Prince Hassan (R ) meet with a Palestinian family during their tour at Hitteen Palestinian refugee camp near Amman March 18, 1998. (Photo: Ali Jarekji/Reuters)

Former basketball star Magic Johnson (R) shares a laugh with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan before a ceremony where Annan presented Johnson a plaque proclaiming him a United Nations Messenger of Peace, in Los Angeles on April 21, 1998. (Photo: Stringer/Reuters)

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan rings the Peace Bell at the United Nations Tuesday, Sept. 16, 1997 in New York. The Japanese-donated bell, meant to symbolize world peace, is rung annually by the secretary-general at the opening of the General Assembly. ( Photo: Marty Lederhandler/AP)

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, left, listens as former President George Bush makes a point after a meeting between the two men Thursday, April 23, 1998 in Houston. (Photo: Pat Sullivan/AP)

Newly sworn in United Nations Secretary General-elect Kofi Annan of Ghana (R) poses with outgoing Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali of Egypt (L) and former Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar of Peru at UN. headquarters in New York, Dec. 17, 1996. (Photo: Peter Morgan/Reuters)

Kofi Annan, United Nations undersecretary-general for peacekeeping, smiles as he sits in his office while the U.N. Security Council votes unanimously to support him in an unofficial poll for the position of secretary general, at United Nations headquarters in New York Dec. 13, 1996. The Security Council will stage a formal vote later in the day. (Photo: Jeff Christensen/Reuters)