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US nominates ambassador to Syria

Other News Materials 17 February 2010 04:21 (UTC +04:00)
US President Barack Obama on Tuesday nominated Robert Stephen Ford to be the first US ambassador to Syria in four years, dpa reported.
US nominates ambassador to Syria

US President Barack Obama on Tuesday nominated Robert Stephen Ford to be the first US ambassador to Syria in four years, dpa reported.

Ford is a career diplomat and currently deputy head of the US embassy in Iraq. He has previously served in Bahrain and Algeria in the last decade.

Obama's choice must still be approved by the US Senate.

The Obama administration announced in June that it would return a US ambassador to Damascus as part of an effort to re-engage Syria and the broader Arab world.

Several high-level US officials have visited Syria during Obama's first year in office, including Middle East envoy George Mitchell.

Bill Burns, US undersecretary of state for political affairs, was in Lebanon on Tuesday and planned to visit Damascus for talks with President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday.

Former president George W Bush recalled the US ambassador to Syria in February 2005 after the assassination in Beirut of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri. Syrian intelligence was suspected of involvement, but al-Assad has long rejected the charge.

US-Syrian relations had also been soured over Washington's accusations that Damascus was supporting Iraqi insurgents as well as the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas, regarded by Washington as terrorist organizations.

Obama has sought to repair relations with the Arab world and is hoping Syria can play an integral role in the Israeli-Arab peace process.

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