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Colleagues say Experience Prepared Negroponte Well for Iraq Ambassador Post - 2004-04-19

President Bush has named U.N. Ambassador John Negroponte to take over as the top U.S. diplomat in Iraq. Mr. Negroponte's work has won high praise from his diplomatic colleagues

John Negroponte spent an illustrious 37-year career as a foreign service officer in some of the world's toughest hotspots.

One of his earliest postings was in Vietnam. By 1968, he was serving as an adviser to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at the Paris peace talks. In the early 1980s, he was ambassador to Honduras, at a time when Washington was deeply involved in counter-insurgency operations in Central America. From there, he became deputy to then National Security Adviser Colin Powell in the Reagan White House.

After his White House tour, he was dispatched as ambassador, first to Mexico, then to the Philippines.

He retired in 1997 and went into private industry, but Secretary of State Powell called him back four years later to take over the high-profile U.N. post. He was sworn in on September 18, 2001, just one week after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

During his two-and-a-half year stint in New York, Ambassador Negroponte earned a reputation as a skillful consensus-builder. When the announcement was made of his appointment as ambassador to Baghdad, Germany's U.N. ambassador Gunter Pleuger called him "the right person for a very difficult and dangerous job."

"With the kind of experience he has had in the past, I think the government could not have found anybody who was better prepared for that kind of job," he said. "He has this enormous experience. He knows the problem right from the beginning from the United Nations so I think it's a good choice."

During his years at the United Nations, Ambassador Negroponte was perhaps best known for his categorical rejection - by veto if necessary - of Arab-sponsored draft resolutions criticizing Israel.

In what came to be known as the Negroponte doctrine, he laid out time and again the U.S. position that any Middle East resolution must condemn Palestinian terrorism as well as Israeli aggression.

"Events must be considered in their context, and this Security Council does nothing to contribute to a peaceful settlement when it condemns one party's actions and turns a blind eye to everything else occurring in the region," he said.

In his new post, Ambassador Negroponte will essentially replace civilian administrator Paul Bremer as the top U.S. official in Iraq. With a staff of 3,000, it will be the largest embassy in the world.

In a statement issued Monday in New York, the ambassador said that, if confirmed, he would focus on cooperating with the United Nations. He called his experience working with Secretary General Kofi Annan and U.N. Iraq envoy Lakhdar Brahimi "a very useful preparation."