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Obama poised to name new Iraq envoy

February 3, 2009
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WASHINGTON - Christopher Hill, the Bush administration's lead negotiator with North Korea, is the leading candidate to become the next US ambassador to Iraq, officials said yesterday.

Officials familiar with internal Obama administration discussions say that Hill, a career foreign service officer, has emerged as the most likely choice to replace Ryan Crocker as America's top diplomat in Baghdad.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss personnel decisions.

It was not immediately clear when the White House might announce Hill's nomination, but President Obama spoke by phone to Iraqi officials earlier yesterday, signaling the appointment may be near.

Hill, a specialist on European affairs before taking on the North Korea portfolio, has little experience in the Middle East but is highly regarded in the diplomatic community.

Crocker, another career diplomat, is retiring after two years on the job during which he oversaw the civilian component of President Bush's troop

Hill has been the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs since April 8, 2005, two months after he was named to lead the US delegation to the so-called six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear issue.

He was also US ambassador to Poland in the Bush administration.

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