bush names negraponte as iraq ambassador
what brazen cheek! a former supporter of death squads in honduras
WASHINGTON - President Bush (news - web sites) named John Negroponte, the United States' top diplomat at the United Nations (news - web sites), as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq (news - web sites) on Monday and asserted that Iraq "will be free and democratic and peaceful."
At the United Nations, Negroponte, 64, was instrumental in winning unanimous approval of a Security Council resolution that demanded Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) comply with U.N. mandates to disarm.
While the resolution helped the Bush administration make its case for invading Iraq, the Security Council eventually refused to endorse the overthrow of Saddam, opting instead to extend U.N. weapons searches.
"John Negroponte is a man of enormous experience and skill" and "has done a really good job of speaking for the United States to the world about our intentions to spread freedom and peace," said Bush.
Regarding Negroponte's new post, the president said there is "no doubt in my mind he can handle it, no doubt in my mind he will do a very good job, and there's no doubt in my mind that Iraq will be free and democratic and peaceful."
In a statement issued at the United Nations, Negroponte said he expects his current assignment to have been a major help to his work in Baghdad because of the efforts of the Bush administration to work closely with other countries to further peace and stability in Iraq.
"I expect the focus of our efforts to be on supporting a free and stable Iraq, at peace with its neighbors. Collaboration with the international community, especially the United Nations, will be a very important part of this endeavor," Negroponte said in a statement.
"I believe my work with Secretary-General Kofi Annan (news - web sites) and Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi since 2001, as well as with other colleagues at the United Nations, has been very useful preparation in this regard." Annan sent Brahimi to Iraq to help in the transfer of control from the United States to Iraqis.
Negroponte's selection was widely praised.
"I respect him as a professional and he's quite an experienced diplomat," said Russia's acting U.N. ambassador, Gennady Gatilov. "So I hope that this appointment will serve the interest of the Iraqi population."
Germany's U.N. ambassador, Gunter Pleuger, the current Security Council president, said, "I think he is certainly the right person for this very difficult and also dangerous job."
Algeria's U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Baali, the only Arab member of the Security Council, said Negroponte "has a great quality, which is to listen to other people, and I think that will help him a lot in his very, very difficult mission in Iraq." in Baghdad that will be temporarily housed in a palace that belonged to Saddam. When up and running, the embassy will be the largest in the world.
Negroponte would become ambassador in Baghdad when the United States hands over political power to an interim Iraqi government by a June 30 deadline. The current top U.S. official in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, is expected to leave the country once the political transition is completed.
Thousands of U.S. troops will remain in the country even after the political transition is complete.
As U.N. ambassador in New York, Negroponte also helped win approval of a resolution to expand the mandate of an international security force in Afghanistan (news - web sites) after the overthrow of the Taliban government.
Before that, he worked in private business.
Negroponte's nomination for the U.N. post was confirmed by the Senate in September 2001, but that confirmation didn't come easy.
It was delayed a half-year mostly because of criticism of his record as the U.S. ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985. In Honduras, Negroponte played a prominent role in assisting the Contras in Nicaragua in their war with the left-wing Sandinista government, which was aligned with Cuba and the Soviet Union.
For weeks before his Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Negroponte was questioned by staff members on whether he had acquiesced to human rights abuses by a Honduran death squad funded and partly trained by the Central Intelligence Agency (news - web sites).
Negroponte testified that he did not believe the abuses were part of a deliberate Honduran government policy. "To this day," he said, "I do not believe that death squads were operating in Honduras."
"He's a diplomat's diplomat," said Bernard Aronson, the State Department's top Latin America official in the first Bush administration, when Negroponte was ambassador to Mexico.
"He's trusted, I think, by the administration. He's certainly very close to the secretary of state and he's unflappable," Aronson said in a recent interview.
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