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US Iraq Ambassador Named Intelligence Chief

President Bush has nominated U.S. Ambassdor to Iraq John Negroponte to fill the new position of director of national intelligence. If confirmed by the Senate, the veteran diplomat will oversee the work of all 15 U.S. government intelligence agencies.

John Negroponte has served in top diplomatic posts in eight countries on three continents - most recently at the United Nations and in Iraq. President Bush says Mr. Negroponte understands America's global intelligence needs because he has spent most of his life serving his country abroad.

"The director's responsibility is straightforward and demanding," the president said. "John will make sure those whose duty it is to defend America have the information we need to make the right decisions."

The president says John Negroponte will assume the new post at an historic moment, as the intelligence community implements reforms necessary to wage an effective war on terrorism.

"In the war against terrorists, who target innocent civilians and continue to seek weapons of mass murder, intelligence is our first line of defense," he stressed. "If we are going to stop the terrorists before they strike, we must ensure that our intelligence agencies work as a single unified enterprise."

The idea of naming a national intelligence director originated with the commission that investigated the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. Congress approved, saying it would lead to better coordination of intelligence activities.

In accepting the president's nomination, Ambassador Negroponte said providing timely and objective intelligence information to the nation's leaders is a critical task.

"I appreciate your confidence in choosing me for what will no doubt be the most challenging assignment I have undertaken in more than 40 years of government service," he said.

The new director of national intelligence will report directly to the president, and will oversee the budgets of the individual intelligence agencies, as well as other key functions.

During the search for a candidate to fill the job, President Bush often said he was looking for someone with extensive experience in intelligence matters. Mr. Bush said Ambassador Negroponte brings something special to the position. He said Mr. Negroponte got an unvarnished up-close look at a deadly enemy as he witnessed the struggle against a bloody insurgency in Iraq.