WASHINGTON (AP) — Arnaud de Borchgrave, a globe-trotting foreign correspondent and news executive who covered 17 wars by his count and cultivated connections with world leaders to score exclusive interviews, died Sunday after a long illness. He was 88.

Alexandra Villard de Borchgrave said her husband died of cancer.

De Borchgrave was a throwback to a more romantic era of journalism — a colleague once told The New Yorker that all de Borchgrave needed to go on assignment were "a tuxedo and a safari suit."

After fleeing Belgium and enlisting as a teenager in England to fight in World War II, he was a wire service reporter for United Press who became a prolific Newsweek foreign correspondent, the editor of The Washington Times in its earliest days, and then back to head UPI as journalism headed into much rockier times.

De Borchgrave befriended world leaders as a foreign correspondent for Newsweek, filing dispatches from Israel's Six Day War of 1967, Moammar Gaddafi's barracks in Libya and European capitals during the height of the Cold War.

"Arnaud was a giant of journalism," said Larry Beasley, president and CEO of The Washington Times. "His globe-trotting reporting kept America informed, and his tireless work as our editor-in-chief helped put The Washington Times on the map in its early days."

While his exploits in the field were legendary, so were his extravagances. His list of sources was the envy of his colleagues, as was his seemingly limitless expense account from Newsweek.

"He was a dashing figure, a charmer of sorts who knew many of the monarchs, rulers and leaders, and a fine reporter," former Newsweek owner Katharine Graham wrote in her memoir, "Personal History." ''And he was good for the magazine."

But, as The Washington Post noted in its obituary, Graham added dryly, "he also lived very well off it."

In 1985, he became editor of the recently launched Washington Times. The conservative newspaper was backed by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, a religious group often described as a cult.

De Borchgrave retired from The Washington Times in 1991 and later became the top executive at United Press International, where he had begun his journalism career decades earlier.