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US Secretary of State John Kerry has got a helping hand from the Kennedy family since breaking his leg in a low-speed bike accident in May.

The 71-year-old, who is attending a regional security summit in Kuala Lumpur, has been getting around with the help of a polished black walking stick used by two generations of the Kennedy dynasty.

"This cane has a history," Kerry told delegates at a meeting held on the sidelines of an annual security forum hosted by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The walking stick, he explained, was originally owned by Joseph P. Kennedy when he was Washington's ambassador to the United Kingdom during the early stages of the Second World War.

His son John F. Kennedy later used the cane before he became president, as did JFK's youngest brother Teddy who spent much of his life suffering from chronic back pain after he was pulled from the wreckage of a fatal air crash in 1964.

"So when Vicki Kennedy, (Teddy's) widow, heard that I had broken my leg, she knew I was going to need the cane," Kerry told delegates in the Malaysian capital.

Washington's top envoy, who looked to Teddy Kennedy as his political mentor, broke his right femur while riding a bike in the French Alps on May 31 during crunch negotiations over Iran's nuclear programme.

After flying back to Boston for surgery, performed by a physician who had previously replaced both of his hips, secure phone lines were set up in his hospital room so that he could keep working on the Iran deal, he later told the Boston Globe.



But the injury has done little to hold him back from a frenetic few weeks of diplomacy.

Last month six world powers, led by the US, reached a landmark deal with Tehran over its nuclear programme, and Kerry has travelled to the Middle East and Southeast Asia since then.

On his latest trip an aide was seen carrying a pair of crutches, just in case the diplomat needed more solid support.

But Kerry made it clear that the Kennedy cane was his preferred choice after borrowing it from the family twice before.

"Three times is lucky, right?" he quipped. afp