US Senate approves envoys to Iraq, Pakistan
Posted Sunday, September 23 2012 at 00:34
The US Senate on Saturday approved new American ambassadors to Iraq and Pakistan, both veteran diplomats who will take over as anti-Western protests sweep through Muslim countries.
In a voice vote, the Senate confirmed Robert Stephen Beecroft as the new envoy to Iraq, and Richard Olson to be the new ambassador to Pakistan.
Beecroft will head Washington's largest embassy in the world, amid challenges in US-Iraq ties over Baghdad's warming relations with Shiite neighbor Iran.
Olson, a 30-year State Department veteran, takes over as Islamabad fears the scheduled 2014 withdrawal of US and NATO combat troops from neighboring Afghanistan could leave a security vacuum in the country.
Beecroft has served at the US embassy in Baghdad since July 2011, first as the deputy chief of mission and, from June, as the charge d'affaires.
He previously served as ambassador to Jordan in 2008-2011, and has held positions at US embassies in Saudi Arabia and Syria.
In mid-June, Obama's original pick for the Iraq job, Brett McGurk, withdrew his candidacy after the revelation of racy emails sent in 2008 between the married diplomat, then stationed in Baghdad, and Wall Street Journal reporter Gina Chon. The two are now married.
The outgoing US ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, resigned in May after a turbulent tenure in which a covert US forces raid killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden near a major military academy, humiliating the country's powerful army.
Until June, Olson served in the US embassy in Kabul as the coordinator for development and economic affairs. He was previously envoy to the United Arab Emirates between 2008 and 2011.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, on a visit to Washington, said Friday that ties between her country and the United States were improving after hitting a rough patch.
Activists in Pakistan staged demonstrations Saturday against an anti-Islam Internet video made in the United States, one day after violent nationwide protests left 21 people dead.
Anger in Pakistan has spiked since bin Laden's death in May 2011, and a US airstrike in November that killed more than 24 Pakistani troops.
The incidents saw relations plunge to a new low. Islamabad closed border crossings into Afghanistan to NATO convoys, forcing them to take longer, more expensive routes to supply their troops, until the blockade was lifted in July.