Kerry says has ‘big heels to fill’ as US top diplomat

Updated 05 February 2013
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Kerry says has ‘big heels to fill’ as US top diplomat

WASHINGTON: John Kerry brandished a copy of his first diplomatic passport, issued at age 11, and joked whether a man could run the State Department, winning a warm welcome yesterday as secretary of state.
Kerry was greeted by hundreds of cheering staff as he took up the reins of US diplomacy from Hillary Clinton, and joked he has “big heels to fill.” And after the recent losses of American diplomats, killed in an assault by militants on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, Kerry promised to make the security of the department’s 70,000 staff his top focus.
The “foreign service is my genes and everything that we do here is,” said Kerry, the son of a US diplomat and a long-time member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, standing among the State Department’s marbled columns.
Kerry said he understood “how critical it is that you have somebody there advocating for you. The dangers could not be more clear.” He vowed that he would honor the deaths of ambassador Chris Stevens and the other Americans who died in the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi.
“I pledge to you this: I will not let their patriotism and their bravery be obscured by politics, No.1,” he said.
“Number two, I guarantee you that, beginning this morning, when I report for duty upstairs, everything I do will be focused on the security and safety of our people,” he added, winning huge applause.
But he also showed a lighter side, wondering if after Clinton and her predecessors Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright, “Can a man actually run the State Department?” And he literally brandished his credentials for the job, taking from his pocket a battered, green copy of his old diplomatic passport, issued when he was just 11 years old.
“Number 2927...There weren’t a lot of people then,” he joked.
The first stamp dated back to 1954 from the French port of Le Havre, when after six days at sea first class he and his family arrived in Europe on their way to Berlin where Kerry’s father was taking up a diplomatic post.
Kerry revealed how he learnt his first lessons about “the virtue of freedom” during bicycle trips around the east, Russian-held sector of the divided German city in the wake of World War II.
“That was a great adventure, and I will tell you, 57 years later, today, this is another great adventure,” he added.


France charges two ex-spies with passing secrets to ‘foreign power’

Updated 5 min 7 sec ago
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France charges two ex-spies with passing secrets to ‘foreign power’

  • Two former French spies, one of whom was reportedly posted in Beijing, have been charged with passing intelligence to a “foreign power,”
  • French media reports, citing sources close to the inquiry, said China is suspected

PARIS: Two former French spies, one of whom was reportedly posted in Beijing, have been charged with passing intelligence to a “foreign power,” a disclosure that has rocked the country’s intelligence services.
Defense Minister Florence Parly, who oversees the country’s General Directorate for External Security (DGSE), said Friday that she was not in a position to identify the country which recruited the agents, who were discovered and indicted in December.
“Two French agents in our service and probably one of the spouses of these agents are accused of serious acts likely to be considered acts of treason, on suspicions of delivering information to a foreign power,” Parly told CNews television.
“I can’t say much else,” she added.
“France has partners but we live in a dangerous world, and unfortunately these types of things can happen.”
French media reports, citing sources close to the inquiry, said China is suspected.
Parly said the agents were “quite likely” still in service at the time but investigators were still determining how long they had been passing along intelligence.
She also declined to specify the nature of compromised information, nor to reveal if the two agents were working together.
A judicial source told AFP late Thursday that two of the three suspects are being prosecuted for “delivering to a foreign power information that undermines the fundamental interests of the nation” and “compromising the secrecy of national defense.”
“One of them has also been charged for direct incitement to the crime of treason,” the source added.
The third person — believed to be the wife — has been indicted for “concealment of treasonable crimes” and placed under judicial control, meaning they are subject to certain constraints pending trial, according to the same source.
The armed forces ministry said: “These acts of extreme gravity have been detected by this service, which has brought these facts to its knowledge to the Paris prosecutor.”