The former US secretary of state Colin Powell has been forced to deny he had an affair with a Romanian diplomat although he did send her "very personal" emails.

Powell, 76, has publicly denied having an affair with Corina Cretu, a member of the European Parliament who previously held a series of senior posts in the Romanian government, after being confronted by a notorious hacker who goes by the name of Guccifer.

The hacker threatened to publish the emails in which Cretu referred to Powell as "the love of my life", according to The Smoking Gun.

Powell, who served in President George W. Bush's cabinet for four years, denied the pair were romantically involved, although he is believed to have advised Cretu to delete all their online exchanges with each other.

In a statement, Powell said the pair met when he was the secretary of state and she was an assistant to the President of Romania.

"We occasionally attended the same diplomatic and international meetings," Powell said.

"After I left the Department of State in January 2005 we stayed in touch via email. I frequently gave her advice on the prospects of finding a position with the UN or other international organisations.

"Over time the emails became of a very personal nature, but did not result in an affair.

"Those type of emails ended a few years ago. There was no affair then and there is not one now."

Powell has been married to his wife Alma for more than 50 years.

His email and Facebook was illegally hacked by Guccifer who then sent some of his emails and photos to several news outlets.

The hacker had previously targeted officials working in the administrations of George Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

When it became clear the hacker had access to his emails and photos, Powell warned Cretu that Guccifer "may have lots of your emails" and advised her to delete their conversations.

In an email to The Smoking Gun, Powell explained: "In light of what was happening it seems obvious to ask Cretu to delete emails."

He added: "She sent photos on a regular basis. Lots of family photos with her nieces, who she adores, family reunions, formal business sessions, her wedding and some bathing suit photos. Never anything improper."

In his statement denying the affair, Powell concluded: "I am pleased that she is having a successful career. I am pleased that she is recently and happily married."