CAIRO (AP) — Ahmed Maher, Egypt's former foreign minister known for his low-key diplomacy, died Monday, the state-owned news agency said. He was 75.

Egypt's MENA news agency said Maher died Monday morning, just hours after he was hospitalized with unspecified health problems.

Maher served as foreign minister from 2001 until 2004. He was called back from retirement for that post in 2001 to replace Amr Moussa, who became head of the Arab League.

In 2003, after he prayed at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, Maher was heckled by a group of angry Palestinians outside the mosque who were protesting his visit to Israel. The protesters called him a traitor and threw shoes at him, a deep insult in the Muslim world.

He wasn't seriously injured but the episode underscored heightened tensions surrounding efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Later, Maher said he was shaken by the assault but recalled it without bitterness.

In a statement, Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit praised Maher as "an efficient diplomat who endeavored to serve Egypt."

The soft-spoken Maher made a stark contrast to Moussa, who made a name for himself among Arabs for his anti-Israel rhetoric.

However, Maher's proponents say he always meant what he said, citing that he once told a newspaper that "honesty is the best policy."

In July, President Hosni Mubarak named him a member of the parliament's upper house, or Shura Council, where the president appoints a third of the seats.

Maher spent his final years writing and lecturing in foreign policy. He is survived by his wife.

Mubarak led a state funeral for Maher, who was buried after Monday's midday prayers at a Cairo cemetery.