Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has paid a heart-felt tribute to United States Senator John McCain who died today.

"My deepest and sincerest sympathies go to the family of Senator John McCain at this very sad time," Peters said in a statement.

"Senator McCain was a man of principle who dedicated his life to the service of his country.

"He was an inspirational leader and war hero, a man of integrity and bravery.

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"It was an honour to meet with Senator McCain on several occasions over recent years."

McCain had been a strong supporter of New Zealand's close partnership with the United States.

"The tributes to his record of service have rarely been more deserved," Peters said.

"His leadership qualities will be missed by the people of the United States," Peters said.

Peters met McCain on several occasions including a visit in 2006 in which he got into angry exchanges with New Zealand journalists over a photo opportunity.

Peters intervened to stop McCain answering any further questions during a photo-opportunity, which angered the media.

And Peters later accused the media of "constructing a tissue of lies" about what had happened.