Obama picks Kerry for top diplomatic post: TV

Updated 16 December 2012
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Obama picks Kerry for top diplomatic post: TV

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama has chosen Senator John Kerry to succeed Hillary Clinton as US secretary of state, news networks CNN and ABC have reported.
CNN cited a Democratic source who had spoken to Kerry, while ABC mentioned unnamed sources. Asked for comment by AFP, the White House did not immediately confirm the reports, but Kerry is seen as a frontrunner for the role.
The defeated 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, Kerry is currently head of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations committee.
On Thursday, Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, withdrew her name from consideration for the secretary of state post, effectively elevating Kerry to the prohibitive favorite.
Rice had come under fire over controversial statements about the deadly September 11 attack on a US mission in Libya, and some Republican lawmakers had vowed to block her path to becoming top diplomat.

Clinton sustains concussion
Meanwhile, the State Department said Clinton sustained a concussion last week after becoming extremely dehydrated and fainting while suffering from a stomach virus.
The 65-year-old Clinton is recovering at home and has been advised by her doctors to continue to rest and avoid strenuous activity and cancel all work events for the next week. She had been scheduled to testify before a pair of congressional panels looking into the Sept. 11 attack against a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.
Dr. Lisa Bardack of the Mt. Kisco Medical Group and Dr. Gigi El-Bayoumi of George Washington University said Saturday that Clinton was suffering from a stomach virus and fainted after becoming extremely dehydrated.
Clinton was diagnosed with a concussion Thursday after fainting at home earlier this week, according to a State Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss Clinton’s injury publicly. The doctors did not determine it to be a “severe” concussion, the official said.
Clinton, who is expected to leave her job soon, skipped an overseas trip this past week because of the stomach virus, the State Department said Saturday.
President Barack Obama telephoned his top diplomat Saturday to wish her well, a White House official said.
The State Department said in a statement that Clinton will continue to work from home in the week ahead and looks forward to returning to the office “soon,” the statement said.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee said it won’t hear from Clinton as planned at a Thursday hearing into the attack at the outpost in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the US ambassador. The House Foreign Affairs Committee also said Clinton would no longer give scheduled testimony at its hearing Thursday on Libya.
Senior State Department officials William Burns and Thomas Nides are to take Clinton’s place at both hearings.
Clinton’s aides on Saturday informed the Senate committee chairman, Sen. John Kerry, about her health, and the Massachusetts Democrat “insisted that given her condition, she could not and should not appear” as planned, said Kerry spokeswoman Jodi Seth. Obama is expected to nominate Kerry to succeed Clinton.
Clinton backed out of a trip to North Africa and the Persian Gulf on Monday because she was sick. She caught the virus during a recent visit to Europe.
The former first lady is known for her grueling travel schedule and is the most traveled secretary of state, having visited 112 countries while in the job.


Divided UN council heads to Sweden for farmhouse retreat

Updated 19 April 2018
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Divided UN council heads to Sweden for farmhouse retreat

  • 15 ambassadors will join Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the secluded getaway in a country setting.
  • The three-day retreat will begin on Friday.

United Nations, United States: After a week of bitter acrimony over Syria, UN Security Council ambassadors are heading to a farmhouse in southern Sweden for a retreat to try to break the deadlock over how to end the war.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley and her Russian counterpart Vassily Nebenzia will be among the 15 ambassadors joining Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the secluded getaway in a country setting.
The three-day retreat beginning Friday comes after one of the council’s most divisive periods, with the United States and Russia split over the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma that lead to military action by Washington and its allies against Syria.
The council met five times on Syria last week including on Tuesday when Russia vetoed a US-drafted resolution setting up a chemical weapons probe while two other proposed measures failed to pass.
The Russia-US rivalry prompted Guterres to declare that the Cold War was “back with a vengeance.”
Asked whether he expected awkward moments during the Swedish retreat, Nebenzia told reporters: “I will see how they feel about dealing with me after all that happened.”
“It’s not news to anyone that the council is divided on Syria,” said Sweden’s Deputy UN Ambassador Carl Skau. “There is some need for humility and patience at this moment.”
The council will be staying at Backakra, the summer residence of Dag Hammarskjold, who was the United Nations’ second secretary-general.
The residence located on the southern tip of Sweden, far from Stockholm, is a “fitting and inspiring venue” to reconnect with the power of diplomacy, said Skau.
“It’s a place to roll up our sleeves, take off our jackets and ties and come up with some real and meaningful ways forward,” he said.
The annual brainstorming session usually takes place in upstate New York, but Sweden, which is a non-permanent council member, offered to host this year’s gathering.
Guterres had told council members that the focus of the meeting would be his plan for a “surge of diplomacy” to address conflicts worldwide, but the council’s deadlock over Syria is emerging as the top priority.