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Obama Names First Syrian Ambassador in Six Years

Thursday, December 30th, 2010 at 12:49 am UTC

U.S. President Barack Obama has used a controversial strategy to appoint the first U.S. ambassador to Syria in nearly six years.

The White House announced Wednesday it had appointed career diplomat Robert Ford to the post.

Under the constitution, the Senate must vote to approve such decisions. But since the legislative body is in recess until January, Mr. Obama is able to push through his nominees without a vote, at least temporarily.

Mr. Obama first nominated Ford in February, but the Senate refused to confirm him. Republicans had opposed sending any envoy to Syria, which they say has provided support to terrorist organizations including Lebanon's Hezbollah.

In the same announcement Wednesday, Mr. Obama also appointed career diplomats as envoys to Azerbaijan, Turkey, the Czech Republic, And he appointed a deputy attorney general and another administrative post.

White House officials justified the move, saying the six nominees had waited, on average, well over 100 days each for a confirmation vote.

The appointments can remain valid until the end of the next Senate session.

Republicans had objected to all the nominees for a variety of reasons. Among others, they questioned Mr. Obama's nominee for the Turkey post, Francis Ricciardone, for his past record on promoting democracy as ambassador to Egypt.

The U.S. last had an ambassador in Syria in 2005, when then-president George W. Bush recalled the envoy after Lebanon's former prime minister Rafiq Hariri was killed. Syria was widely blamed for the bomb attack in which he died.

The U.S. state department designates Syria a “state sponsor of terrorism.”

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