The U.S. Senate confirmed veteran diplomat Christopher Hill as U.S. ambassador to Iraq on Tuesday, voting 73-23 to put Hill in charge of the largest U.S. embassy in the world.
Hill, a career Foreign Service officer, was the lead U.S. negotiator in the now-stalled North Korean disarmament talks. Hill will take over the Baghdad post at a time when U.S. President Barack Obama is attempting to wind down the 6-year-old war in Iraq. His nomination made it past a key Senate test Monday, as opponents failed to block the nomination. All 23 votes against the nomination Tuesday came from Republicans, several of whom argued that the nominee has no hands-on experience in the Middle East and speaks no Arabic. But Senator John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Monday that Hill had great experience “in negotiating complex, high-stakes, multilateral deals in conflict zones.”
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“The entire resolution of Iraq as a success will revolve around the diplomacy that we apply to it and our ability to seek political reconciliation, which will be implemented by that diplomacy,” said Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat. Hill replaces Ryan Crocker, who was the top U.S. diplomat in Baghdad from March 2007 until February.