Entries in Ambassador (16)


Amb. Stevens Cautioned Ex-Military Officer Against Libya Travel

MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A short time before his death, Ambassador Chris Stevens warned a retired senior American military officer against traveling to Libya due to security concerns, the officer told ABC News.

The officer said he had planned to go on a business trip to Tripoli in early October and, in late August, had asked through official channels if it was safe.

Through a diplomatic attache, Stevens said he didn’t think it was a good idea because of the “potential of increased risk to foreigners as militias and clans jockeyed for position” as the country rebuilds itself from a civil war that deposed dictator Moammar Gadhafi and left the nation awash in weapons. Stevens’ advice was heeded and the trip was canceled.

Stevens was killed along with State Department computer expert Sean Smith and former U.S. Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods in a brazen attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Sept. 11.

Following the attack, questions arose about the security of the diplomatic mission in such a turbulent country, and Tuesday, Republicans in the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton alleging U.S. officials in Libya had made “repeated requests” for increased security in Benghazi, only to be denied by Washington.

In a response letter, Clinton said an Accountability Review Board (ARB) had been set up to determine “whether our security systems and procedures in Benghazi were adequate, whether those systems and procedures were properly implemented, and any lessons that may be relevant to our work around the world.”

“I … would encourage you to withhold any final conclusions about the Benghazi attack until the committee can review the ARB’s findings,” she wrote.

The Obama administration has also come under fire from Republicans for initially saying the assault was the result of a protest that was “hijacked” by violent actors, rather than a full-on “terrorist attack,” as White House spokesperson Jay Carney called it a week later.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported Tuesday that special operations forces and the CIA are in the process of gathering information on suspects believed to be involved in the attack for kill or capture missions in the event they get the order from the White House. President Obama has said repeatedly that those responsible will “brought to justice.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Libya Attack: Five Guards Protected Slain Ambassador Chris Stevens

MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Five guards from the State Department were protecting U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens when he was killed in the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last week, according to a top congressional Democrat briefed on the matter.

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the ranking member on the House Armed Services committee, dismissed concerns that Stevens did not have adequate security when he was killed, but he added that there was no actionable intelligence to suggest that a terrorist attack was imminent.

“The ambassador had five security guards with him,” Smith disclosed. “He had security guards around him when they came under fire, the building itself caught on fire. He was with his other aide and one other security guy and in the fire they got separated.”

Until now, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President Obama and other U.S. officials had refused to comment on the precautions taken to protect Stevens.

“We obviously never talk publicly about security at any of our missions for obvious reasons,” Clinton said Tuesday. “But that said, let me assure you that our security in Benghazi included a unit of host government security forces, as well as a local guard force of the kind that we rely on in many places around the world. In addition to the security outside the compound, we relied on a wall and a robust security presence inside the compound.”

But following a classified briefing Thursday afternoon with Clinton, members of Congress seemed to contradict each other on many details emerging from a preliminary investigation into the attack.

Smith said that the investigation is still ongoing and so far inconclusive, but based on discussions he’s had about the attack, “it seems like it was obviously some element of pre-planning, but how far in advance, that’s hard to say and they didn’t really speculate on that.”

“Personally it seems like it was not something that simply happened spontaneous, but it wasn’t that well-planned,” Smith added. “One point that was made is that they didn’t bring up mortars until like six or seven hours into the fight, so it seems like an armed gang that seized an opportunity with at least some prior thought.”

Members of Congress seemed to disagree whether there was a demonstration at the consulate that preceded the attack. Smith’s Republican counterpart at the Armed Services committee, Rep. Buck McKeon, the chairman of the committee, said he believes the attack was not spontaneous and was planned ahead of time.

“They’re now saying that there was not a demonstration,” McKeon, R-Calif., said. “That story has been walked away from now. The first story was there was a demonstration and that grew into an attack. I think the story now is that there was not a demonstration. That this was a preplanned attack.”

Still, McKeon said he did not believe that Stevens had adequate protection, telling reporters that the consulate “really wasn’t prepared for what hit them,” and he questioned why the State Department had any personnel, including the ambassador, there.

“It’s pretty obvious he did not have adequate security. Otherwise he would probably be here today,” he said. “I’m really disappointed about that. I think when we put our people around the world at risk and don’t provide adequate security, shame on us.”

McKeon also told reporters that “there is information out there that there was a former detainee that was released from Guantanamo that may have been involved in the attack.”

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., the top Democrat on the House Intelligence committee, said at this time the connection to the former detainee, Ben Qhuru, has not been established.

“There’s been a lot of speculation on what has occurred,” Ruppersberger warned. “We’ve got our best investigators on the ground working together with our intelligence community to find out the exact facts.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Slain Ambassador Chris Stevens Was 'Legendary' in Libya, Says Former Staffer

MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- During the early days of the Libyans' fight to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi, Christopher Stevens wrangled a ride on a Greek cargo ship and sailed into the rebels' stronghold city of Benghazi. He arrived at a time when the crackle of gunfire could be heard each night.

Stevens and his team didn't even have a place to stay, but found space in a hotel briefly, moving out after a car bomb went off in the parking lot, according to his own account in State Magazine last year.

Stevens, whose diplomatic foothold were a couple of battered tables, was literally on the rebels' side while the revolution was at its most vulnerable and in danger of being crushed by Gadhafi's troops who were moving on the city. The threat was pushed back at the last minute by the intervention of NATO planes, which began bombing Gadhafi's tanks and troops.

Stevens, who was elevated to ambassador four months ago, was killed Tuesday by militants who stormed the Benghazi consulate.

Stevens "will be remembered as a hero by many nations," his boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said Wednesday morning. "He risked his life to stop a tyrant then gave his life trying to help build a better Libya. The world needs more Chris Stevenses."

President Obama, who ordered flags lowered to half-staff Wednesday, hailed the ambassador as a "role model to all he worked with and the young diplomats that strive to walk in his footsteps."

One of the U.S. Embassy staff members who worked under Stevens tweeted that he "was the best person I have ever worked for."

"I learned more from him in three months than I have in my adult life," tweeted Hannah Draper, who is in the U.S. on leave from the embassy. "He loved Libya and Libyan people. He died doing what he believed in."

In an August blog post, Draper said the ambassador was "legendary" in Libya because he stayed in the country through the revolution, "liaising with the rebels and leading a skeleton crew of Americans on the ground to support humanitarian efforts and meeting up-and-coming political leaders."

"Several Libyans have told me how much it means to them that he stayed here throughout the revolution, losing friends and suffering privations alongside ordinary Libyans," Draper wrote on her blog. "We could not ask for a better ambassador to represent America during this crucial period in Libyan history."

Stevens, 52 and single, served as a special envoy to the Libyan Transitional National Council last year from March to November, according to his State Department biography. During his 21 years in the Foreign Service he also served in Jerusalem, Damascus, Cairo and Saudi Arabia.

Stevens, who spoke French and Arabic, was a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco, where he taught English for two years before returning to northern California to get his law degree from the University of California.

In a State Department video introducing Stevens as the new ambassador to Libya last May, Stevens says he "quickly grew to love this part of the world" during his time in the Peace Corps and since joining the Foreign Service "spent almost my entire career in the Middle East and Africa."

He says in the video that he "was thrilled to watch the Libyan people stand up and demand their rights" during the 2011 revolution, which ousted Gadhafi.

At his Senate confirmation hearing in March, Stevens said, "It will be an extraordinary honor to represent the United States during this historic period of transition in Libya."

Three other Americans were killed in the U.S. Embassy attacks in Libya, including Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, who died of smoke inhalation after protestors set the embassy aflame. Smith was in Libya on a "brief, temporary assignment," Clinton said.

Smith leaves behind his wife, Heather, and two young children, Samantha and Nathan.

President Obama called Smith's wife, as well as Ambassador Stevens' parents, aboard Air Force One on his way to Nevada Wednesday afternoon.

"On all of these calls, he has offered his condolences and made clear that his thoughts and prayers, and the thoughts and prayers of the American people, are with the family members of those we lost," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters.

"He thanked the family members for the service to their country that Ambassador Stevens and Mr. Smith provided and made clear his commitment that justice be done when it comes to finding out who is responsible for the attack that lead to their death," he added.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Syrian Ambassador to Iraq Defects

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(BAGHDAD) -- Numerous members of the Syrian military, including several top generals, have defected in the wake of their country’s 16-month violent anti-government uprising, but President Bashar al-Assad suffered a diplomatic loss on Wednesday when his ambassador to Iraq announced his defection in Baghdad.

Ambassador Nawaf al-Fares is the first senior diplomat to leave Assad’s embattled government.  

In a statement released to Al Jazeera, al-Fares said, “I announced my resignation as Syrian ambassador to Iraq as I also declare my defection from the Syrian Baath party.  I urge all honest members of this party to follow my path because the regime has turned it to an instrument to kill people and their aspiration to freedom.”

“I also declare from this moment that I have joined the ranks of the revolution, a place where I should be at this critical time which Syria is going through,” al-Fares concluded.

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, says the United States is joining several European nations in calling for Assad to comply with U.N. Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point peace proposal and implement an immediate ceasefire or face the consequences.  Those consequences include U.N.-authorized sanctions.  

Key Syrian allies, Russia and China, have not yet given their support for a U.N. resolution for sanctions.

Ambassador Rice says Iran is also complicating matters because it continues to support and aid the Assad government.

Syrian opposition forces say more than 17,000 people have been killed in the uprising against the Assad government.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


WSJ Reporter Resigns Over Ambassador Nominee Affair

Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Wall Street Journal reporter Gina Chon resigned today after emails surfaced revealing she had a secret affair with the man who is now President Obama’s nominee to serve as U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

The pair began their romantic relationship in 2008, while Chon was the paper’s Iraq correspondent and Brett McGurk was an adviser to the National Security Council on Iraq – and while McGurk was married to another woman. McGurk has since divorced his wife and married Chon.

The emails, first published by the blog Cryptome last week and confirmed by ABC News, are sexually explicit and suggest that Chon got much of her information, guidance and access for her reporting from McGurk during their affair.

In one, Chon jokingly refers to reporters as vultures attacking sources, to which he replies, “If treated to many glasses of wine — you could be the chosen vulture.”

McGurk also talks about bringing the reporter with him to dinner with a leading Iraqi politician. He ultimately does not, but later writes, “I had a very good day with the Iraqis … the best yet. Can’t tell you about it of course.”

According to a statement released by the Journal, Chon resigned after acknowledging she violated the paper’s code of conduct by sharing unpublished stories with McGurk.

The paper continues to insist that the relationship had no effect on Chon’s reporting.

McGurk’s confirmation to the post is pending before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Twitter War Rages On Between Russia and US Ambassador

SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- The Twitter war between the Russian Foreign Ministry and U.S. Ambassador in Moscow Michael McFaul has flared up again after the ministry said it was “utterly shocked” by a presentation the U.S. envoy gave to a group of Russian students last week.

In an unprecedented public rebuke the Foreign Ministry fired off a string of furious tweets Monday blasting McFaul for “deliberate distortion” of U.S.-Russian relations and called his conduct “unprofessional.”

“This is not the first time Mr. McFaul’s statements and actions have been a cause for concern,” the ministry wrote. It quickly added: “Ambassadors’ job, as we understand it, is to improve bilateral ties, not to spread blatant falsehoods through the mediasphere.”

The angry tweets were in response to a presentation McFaul gave to a group of students at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics last Friday entitled “The ‘Reset’ Theory, Results.” His remarks addressed the often contentious U.S.-Russian bilateral relationship, which the Obama administration vowed to “reset,” and efforts to improve them.

Some of the tweets ripped McFaul for his alleged criticism of the Kremlin-backed English-language television station RT, formerly known as Russia Today.

“It is hard to understand why freedom of speech supporter Michael McFaul casts suspicion on the activities of the @RT_com network in the U.S.,” the ministry wrote in one of nine tweets fired off within a span of three minutes. “It would seem he should be pleased with the emergence of additional sources of information for the American public.”

Soon after the ministry’s stinging opening salvo, McFaul took to his own Twitter account to defend his presentation, firing off tweets to note that his talk included 20 areas of U.S.-Russian cooperation and that he has appeared on RT in interviews. He also posted a link to the PowerPoint slides from his talk.

McFaul’s appointment as ambassador to Russia was a particularly controversial one in part because the Stanford professor was not a career diplomat and he faced problems from the very start.

He attended a meeting with Russian opposition figures shortly after arriving in Moscow in February, and Russian state television soon began a campaign blasting him for interfering in Russia’s internal affairs and accused the United States of paying protesters to attend anti-Putin protests. Television commentators seized on a book he wrote about Russia’s revolution and suggested he had been sent to Moscow to foment unrest.

During the next few months McFaul again made headlines when he publicly accused someone of hacking his emails and tapping his phones after a pro-Kremlin television crew followed him to unannounced meetings. The harassment led Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to personally complain to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about McFaul’s treatment, a U.S. official told ABC News.

McFaul later backpeddled on his hacking claim. On Monday he also offered a similar response to the Foreign Ministry’s criticism.

“Still learning the craft of speaking more diplomatically,” he wrote.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Secretary Clinton: US Soon to Name Potential Ambassador to Burma  

US Dept of State(WASHINGTON) -- Calling Burma’s parliamentary elections this weekend a “dramatic demonstration of popular will” and an important step for the country’s transformation to democracy, Secretary Hillary Clinton announced Wednesday that the U.S. is moving to normalize relations with the former rogue nation.
Clinton said that the U.S. will be seeking to name a fully accredited ambassador to Burma in “the coming days” for the Senate to confirm. She also said that the State Department will be establishing a fully operational USAID office, and lifting sanctions for private non-profit organizations to operate in the country as well as some businesses to help accelerate Burma’s economic growth. The State Department also plans to facilitate travel to Burma for select U.S. officials and individuals, Sec. Clinton said.

Clinton said the United States will "meet action with action," stressing that some sanctions will remain for those in the regime who are on “the wrong side” of the country’s progress, and calling for an unconditional release of political prisoners and a lift on any conditions restricting those already released.
But overall, Clinton had glowing praise for Burma President Thein Sein, once considered the right-hand man of the country’s former dictator, and noted the election of Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy activist who spent decades under house arrest.  She said Burma’s leadership is showing its willingness to work toward a more hopeful future.

“We fully recognize and embrace the progress that has taken place,” the secretary said.

Clinton traveled to Burma late last year, making her the most senior American official to visit the country in 50 years, according to The Telegraph.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Ambassador to Syria: Assad ‘Should Step Aside’

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In one of his first interviews since leaving Syria after operations at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus were suspended because of the escalating violence, U.S. Ambassador to Syria  Robert Ford said the Syrian government had not delivered on any of its promises of reform.

“I’m hearing a lot about promises, but I’m not seeing any change on the ground. And change on the ground could start with stopping the attacks on civilian populations,” Ford told ABC News’ global affairs anchor Christiane Amanpour. “Stop arresting, stop shooting, peaceful protesters.  That would be a good way to start to show that you are sincere about some kind of a political dialogue.”

Ford said violence in the country had escalated dramatically over the past 11 months.

“It’s gotten much, much worse. And if the government does not stop its effort to put down a widespread protest movement by force, if it doesn’t stop trying to solve this by force the country will go off a cliff,” he said.

According to Ford, the U.S. does not want to send American military forces to Syria and is working to increase economic pressure on the country in hopes of getting Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to step down.

“He has lost his legitimacy, and therefore he should step aside … so that a peaceful political transition can go forward,” Ford said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Citing Safety, US Ambassador to Syria Returns to Washington

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The American ambassador to Syria has been pulled from that country on concerns over his security.

"Ambassador Robert Ford was brought back to Washington as a result of credible threats against his personal safety in Syria,” U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement Monday.

Ford in recent months has made clear his support for the anti-government movement in Syria, a position that has led to some tense situations with pro-government demonstrators.

“This decision was based solely on the need to ensure his safety, a matter we take extremely seriously,” Toner said.

“At this point, we can’t say when he will return to Syria,” Toner said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Reads 'Riot Act' to Syrian Envoy over Attack on Ambassador Ford

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- On Thursday night the State Department called in Syria’s Ambassador in Washington Imad Moustapha and “read the riot act about this incident” and reminded of Syria’s treaty obligations to protect foreign diplomats.
“He was reminded that Ambassador Ford is the personal representative of the president and that an attack on Ford is an attack on the United States,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters Friday.
In the meeting with Ambassador Moustapha, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman also demanded that the Syrian government pay for the extensive damage to embassy vehicles. A previous U.S. demand to pay for damage to the U.S. embassy after it was stormed by another mob last summer has so far fell on deaf ears, the State Department said.
Part of the U.S. complaint this time is how long it took Syrian security forces to respond to Ford’s calls for help.
“As compared to the almost instantaneous response that Syrian security seems to be able to mount when there's an opposition demonstration, it took them almost two hours to come and disperse the mob and extract him from the site, and then he and his Syrian escorts went right back to the embassy without incident,” Nuland said.
Nuland described the group of protestors that assaulted Ford as a “Syrian rent-a-mob” and denied reports in Syrian media that Ford’s convoy hit a small child.
“His convoy did not hit anyone; that's Syrian disinformation. He went straight back to the embassy with no incident,” she said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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