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U.S./U.N. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to Leave Office

Wednesday, 27 Aug 2008 11:47 AM

By Stewart Stogel

UNITED NATIONS — The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, is expected to leave office before the November elections, diplomatic sources report.

While Khalilzad's departure had been expected, his resignation date is likely to be moved up and could come as early as October, sources said.

The move apparently comes as a result of a recent falling out between the ambassador and senior State Department officials, including Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte, who served as the Bush administration's first U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

Things came to a head on Tuesday when The New York Times reported that Khalilzad had been unofficially advising Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto and leading candidate to succeed Pervez Musharraf as president of Pakistan.

Khalilzad, an Afghan native, is rumored to be flirting with the possibility of returning home to challenge President Hamid Karzai when his term expires next year. Should Khalilzad return home, a good working relationship with Islamabad would be critical.

The Pakistani incident is just the latest misstep involving the U.S. ambassador. Khalilzad and his deputy, Alejandro Wolff, have been roundly criticized by U.N. diplomats for the disjointed way the delegation has handled the Russian invasion of Georgia, sources report. The invasion — almost three weeks old — has paralyzed the Security Council.

Two competing draft resolutions, one by France, the other by Russia, stand little chance of passage. The U.S. delegation has been pushed to the sidelines, doing little more than issuing empty, inflammatory warnings to Moscow.

Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, told Newsmax he has been confused by the U.S. delegation, at one point asking, "do you speak English?" Churkin's concerns have been echoed by other Council diplomats.

While the White House struggles over the Russian invasion and the U.N.'s inaction, the U.S. representative still decided to take a previously scheduled vacation in Dubai. Despite the problems, State Department spokesman Robert Wood offered a luke warm endorsement of the U.S. ambassador: "The Secretary [of State Condoleezza Rice] still has full confidence in the ambassador." But when asked if Khalilzad should offer his resignation, Wood brushed aside the question, stating such matters were outside his responsibilities.

Khalilzad's fall from grace is contrasted by an entry on Wikipedia, where the U.S. ambassador was reported to aspire to be the "first Islamic secretary of state."

Khalilzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen, previously served as American ambassador to Kabul, and later to Iraq, before arriving at the U.N. in March 2007. Khalilzad succeeded John Bolton, whose neo-con politics infuriated Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman and Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden, D-Del., who successfully blocked his Senate approval.

Ben Chang, the U.S./U.N. mission's spokesman, had no comment on developments other than to note that Khalilzad had publicly stated he intended to leave his U.N. post before a new U.S. administration takes office in January 2009.

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