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Mideast scholar Fouad Ajami dead at 68

(Reuters) - Fouad Ajami, a prolific writer who became one of the world's most prominent Middle East historians, died on Sunday aged 68, Stanford University said.

Ajami, a Shiite Muslim who was born in Lebanon and emigrated to the United States in 1963, died after battling cancer, said the university's Hoover Institution, where he was a senior fellow.

The author of some 400 essays on Arab and Islamic politics, U.S. foreign policy and contemporary international history, Ajami was credited with research that charted the road to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. targets, the Iraq war and the U.S. presence in the Arab-Islamic world, the statement said.

Ajami taught at Princeton and American University, and served as director of Middle East studies at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University for more than three decades.

A contributing editor for U.S. News and World Report and a board member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Ajami was also a familiar face on television news, including CNN, where he frequently discussed Middle East issues.

"He was a great intellect and was full of grace and compassion," said CNN anchor Anderson Cooper on Twitter. "He was a wonderful scholar and a lovely human being."

Among honors Ajami secured over the decades were the National Humanities Medal in 2006 and the MacArthur Fellows Award, which we won in 1982.

His books included "The Arab Predicament," "Beirut: City of Regrets," "The Dream Palace of the Arabs" and "The Foreigner's Gift."

(Reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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