Peter Struck (left) with Angela Merkel in 2009.
Peter Struck (left) with Angela Merkel in 2009.
Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

BERLIN — Germany’s former defense minister Peter Struck, a vehement opponent of the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, died Wednesday after a heart attack. He was 69.

His family said Mr. Struck, a plain-spoken politician who was a leading lawmaker for Germany’s center-left Social Democrats for almost three decades, died in a Berlin hospital.

Mr. Struck served as Germany’s defense minister from 2002 to 2005. While an opponent of the Iraq war, he oversaw the early years of Germany’s military engagement in Afghanistan, famously announcing that ‘‘German security is being defended in the Hindu Kush’’ mountains.

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Chancellor Angela Merkel, who came to power in a coalition with Mr. Struck’s party in 2005, called him ‘‘a great parliamentarian’’ who strongly defended his positions but was always a reliable partner.

‘‘With his death, Germany is losing a steadfast and authentic personality, who embodied like almost no one else the country’s defense policy,’’ said Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere. ‘‘He liked the soldiers, and they liked him.’’

Since 2010, Mr. Struck had led the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, a major foundation affiliated with his party.

He was a lawmaker from 1980 to 2009.