170 Diplomats to Resign Ahead of Obama's Inauguration

Friday, 05 Dec 2008 10:25 AM

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WASHINGTON – The US State Department has asked some 170 ambassadors to tender their resignations in a routine move before Barack Obama is inaugurated as president, an official said Thursday.

Many career ambassadors, including Gene Cretz who was confirmed last month as the first US ambassador to Libya in 36 years, will probably be asked to stay in their posts, an official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

"The message was something that is normally sent out (after every election every four years) by the State Department at the request of the White House," the State Department official said.

"It's a normal procedure for ambassadors, career and non-career, to submit their resignations. And what happens is that all of them do," according to the official who added the message was sent out Tuesday.

"And in many cases, career ambassadors will be notified that they can stay in place," he said.

"You also have from time to time political (appointee) ambassadors who come in with requests to maybe extend for a couple of months for family reasons or whatever, and those are looked at on a case-by-case basis," he said.

Around 34 percent of the 170 ambassadors serving abroad are political appointees, the official said.

These include the current ambassadors to London, Berlin, Vienna, Rome, Paris and The Hague, the official said later.

Asked if Cretz will have to resign shortly after assuming his post in Tripoli, the official said: "He probably has to do it (resign) pro-forma but he will be, I'm sure, asked to stay."

Cretz is due to be sworn in as ambassador on December 17 before traveling to Libya, the official said.

Cretz's confirmation by the Senate last month came after the United States and Libya cleared the last hurdle to a full normalization of ties when Tripoli compensated US victims of terrorist attacks that occurred in the 1980s.

The last US ambassador left Tripoli on November 7, 1972 "because of Libya's support for international terrorism and its subversion of moderate Arab and African governments," the State Department said.

The compensation settlement, which has also cleared the way for the Senate to free up the funds for a new embassy there, caps what US diplomats say is a nearly five-year "historic transformation" for Libya.

© 2008 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved.

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