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Ambassador Nominations Complete Iraq Policy Shakeup


President Bush Monday completed a shake-up of key Iraq policy posts by nominating new U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations and Baghdad. The U.S. envoy to Iraq, Zalmay Khalizad, will take the United Nations post, while the current ambassador to Pakistan, Ryan Crocker, goes to Baghdad. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

The long-anticipated ambassadorial changes complete a new administration policy team that is to implement the Iraq strategy President Bush will announce in a broadcast address Wednesday night.

The shakeup began just after the November U.S. election, with the replacement of Donald Rumsfeld with Robert Gates as defense secretary.

It continued last week with appointment a new director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell, while the incumbent in that post, John Negroponte, was named to be Deputy Secretary of State with major responsibilities for Iraq.

Top commanders for the U.S. military forces in Iraq are also being replaced, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice confirmed the ambassadorial moves in a brief press appearance here.

She said Ambassador Khalilzad, the Bush administration's highest ranking Muslim, will move to the United Nations post which has been vacant since the interim appointment of John Bolton expired last month.

"This work is a tall order," said Condoleezza Rice. "It demands a skilled and experienced diplomat with proven ability to lead from principle, and to build consensus and get results. And few Americans have distinguished themselves in this regard as much as Zal. As our ambassador to Iraq these past 18 months, a time of extraordinary change and extraordinary challenge, Zal has performed heroically and at great personal risk to help Iraqi reformers and responsible leaders build a foundation of democracy in their country."

The Afghan-born Khalilzad had previously been U.S. ambassador in Kabul, where Rice said he helped the people of his ancestral homeland step out of the shadows of conflict to begin a new future of hope.

She said his replacement in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, is one of the most experienced members of the U.S. diplomatic corps, an ambassador to Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria and currently Pakistan, and with experience in both Baghdad and Kabul:

"Ryan Crocker is known and respected throughout our government, throughout the Middle East, and throughout the world," she said. "He knows the language and culture of the region as well as the leaders and the societies they lead. He will work effectively with the leadership of our military, as he has done in Pakistan. He will work well with our coalition partners and he will work well with the new Iraqi government. Ryan will be a demanding boss in our embassy, you can be sure of that, but a fair and inspiring one."

The 57-year-old Crocker, who survived the 1983 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut, was reportedly considering retirement before being tapped for the Baghdad job, where he will preside over the largest U.S. diplomatic post in the world.

Ambassador Khalilzad, educated at the American University in Beirut, was a State Department policy adviser in the 1980's. Before becoming the first American ambassador to Afghanistan following the U.S.-led invasion of 2001, he was a National Security Council adviser to President Bush on Southwest Asia and Islamic affairs.

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