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Former Cabinet Member Weinberger Dies at 88

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Caspar W. Weinberger, who served in the Cabinets of both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and was central figure in the Iran-Contra scandal, died Tuesday at the age of 88.

"I was deeply disturbed to learn of the death of a great American and a dear friend," said former Secretary of State Colin Powell. "Cap Weinberger was an indefatigable fighter for peace through strength. He served his nation in war and peace in so many ways."

Caspar Weinberger Jr., told The Associated Press that his father died Tuesday morning in Bangor, Maine, and said that he had been on kidney dialysis for a couple years and had suddenly developed pneumonia. Weinberger died at Eastern Maine Medical Center after a brief illness, said Monie Begley, a spokeswoman for Forbes magazine, where he was chairman. He was living in Mount Desert, Maine.

As Richard Nixon's budget director, Weinberger was such a zealous economizer he earned the nickname "Cap the Knife" for his efforts to slash government spending, largely by cutting or curtailing many of President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society social programs.

Later, he became the consummate Cold Warrior as Ronald Reagan's secretary of defense and presided over $2 trillion in military spending - the biggest peacetime increase in U.S. history.

Patrick Buchanan, an aide and speechwriter in the Nixon White House, called Weinberger "a good friend."

"I think he was just about one of the best Cabinet officers that I've known in a lifetime," Buchanan said.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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