WASHINGTON – U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John D. Negroponte (search) is the new U.S. ambassador-designate to Iraq, President Bush announced Monday.
"He has done a really good job of speaking for the United States to the world about our intentions to spend freedom and peace. John Negroponte is a man of enormous experience and skill," Bush said in the Oval Office with the diplomat by his side. "No doubt in my mind he can handle it, no doubt in my mind he will do a very good job, no doubt in my mind that Iraq will be free and peaceful."
Though currently an ambassador, Negroponte, 64, must be confirmed for the post by the Senate. Negroponte will also have to wait until a government is in place before he can present his credentials. Iraqis are set to take over their own sovereignty by July 1, even though the U.S.-led coalition will keep troops in place there for at least a year. At the time Iraqis gain self-rule, Coalition Provisional Authority (search) Administrator L. Paul Bremer will depart, and Negroponte will be the top U.S. official there.
Negroponte, who led the effort to gain U.N. support for a mission into Iraq, is a career foreign service officer who started out in Vietnam. He served as an aide to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and was U.S. ambassador to Mexico and the Philippines.
He also served as ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985, at which time he assisted the Contras (search) in Nicaragua in their war with the left-wing Sandinista government, which was aligned with Cuba and the Soviet Union.
He was working in the corporate world before being asked by Bush to go to the United Nations in September 2001. There, he helped win unanimous approval by the Security Council for a resolution that demanded Saddam Hussein's government comply with U.N. resolutions that it disarm.
The Security Council later refused to endorse a resolution that would have called for the overthrow of Saddam, opting for continued weapons inspections instead.
The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad will be housed temporarily in a palace that belonged to the now-deposed Iraqi leader and when fully manned will be the largest in the world.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.