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Obama Pick for Salvador Post Withdrew Prior Nomination Over Cuba Concerns

President Obama's recent nominee for ambassador to El Salvador was forced to withdraw her nomination to another diplomatic post a decade ago following concerns about ties to Cuba, raising red flags as her name heads to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee once again for approval. 

The White House announced the nomination of Mari Carmen Aponte last Wednesday along with a handful of other appointments. The selection has started to draw some attention given that former President Clinton nominated her for ambassador to the Dominican Republic in 1998, only to see the nomination fizzle after the foreign relations panel questioned her over her past relationship with someone who had apparently caught the attention of the FBI

One former official with knowledge of that nomination said the committee started scrutinizing Aponte after learning that she had attended a party at the Cuban mission to the United Nations in New York City, and that she had a relationship with someone, Roberto Tamayo, who had raised concern at the FBI over "possible ties to the Cuban government" and "repeated trips there." 

The former official said the matter "sure as hell" should come up this time around. 

"I think it's a mistake to have someone who did not pass muster before to be nominated again," the former official told FoxNews.com. "It shows a disrespect to the process I think. ... Hopefully there'll be somebody on the committee who takes a sober look at the record."

According to reports at the time, a former Cuban intelligence agent also told a Spanish-language newspaper in Miami in 1993 that Cuban intelligence was trying to recruit her through her boyfriend. 

By the time Clinton nominated her, that relationship had ended -- the former official said the Senate committee had no evidence of any such recruitment either. But the source said the committee was ultimately concerned about her relationship with Tamayo, and whether it could be exploited by the Cuban government. 

The Miami Herald reported in 1999 that the FBI had cleared Aponte of being targeted in any recruitment scheme. The Washington Times quoted a former FBI agent at the time as saying Tamayo was actually a valuable source of information for the FBI.

White House spokesman Tommy Vietor cited the FBI's finding in defending the appointment. 

"As has been previously reported, the FBI fully investigated this issue in 1999, and Ms. Aponte received a thorough background check by diplomatic security as part of the nomination process this time around," Vietor said in an e-mail to FoxNews.com. "Had there been any doubt, the president would not have nominated Ms. Aponte to this position."

But the former official with knowledge of the nomination said Tamayo was probably not an FBI "mole," and his contact with the agency didn't mean he was innocuous. 

Aponte has been a prolific contributor to Democrats, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she was running for Senate, and others. The attorney has an extensive legal background, having served as president of the Hispanic National Bar Association, as well as on the board of the National Council of La Raza and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. She was born in Puerto Rico

Watchdog group Judicial Watch raised alarm over the appointment, but predicted that she will ultimately be confirmed. 

FoxNews.com's Judson Berger contributed to this report.