British politician, major opponent of Iraq war, dies aged 55

Former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy was one of the most colorful characters in Britain's parliament

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Former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy, one of the most colorful characters in Britain's parliament and an opponent of the Iraq war, has died suddenly aged 55, his family said Tuesday.

"It is with great sadness, and an enormous sense of shock, that we announce the death of Charles Kennedy," said a statement.

"Charles died at home in Fort William yesterday. He was 55. We are obviously devastated at the loss.

"Charles was a fine man, a talented politician, and a loving father to his young son," it added.

Ambulance services alerted police after being called out to his home on Monday, but his death is not being treated as suspicious.

The Scotsman served as an MP for 32 years, but lost his Ross, Skye and Lochaber seat at last month's general election as the Scottish National Party swept to victory north of the border.

He took over the leadership of the party from Paddy Ashdown in 1999, leading the party to its best general election result since the 1920s in 2005, claiming 62 seats on the back of his lone stand among major party leaders in opposing the Iraq invasion.

He quit in 2006 after confirming that he had received treatment for a drinking problem.

Nick Clegg, the party's leader until last month's disastrous election that saw them win just eight seats, paid tribute to "one of most gifted politicians of his generation."

"He had an unusual gift for speaking about politics with humor and humility which touched people well beyond the world of politics," said Clegg.

"He was a proud Highlander, Scot and British Parliamentarian.

"He was one of the most gentle and unflappable politicians I have ever known, yet he was immensely courageous too not least when he spoke for the country against the invasion of Iraq."

Kennedy separated from his wife Sarah Gurling in 2010 after eight years of marriage and leaves behind a 10-year-old son.

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