Wed, Feb 25, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Clinton picks Dennis Ross to advise on Gulf


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed former Middle East envoy Dennis Ross as an adviser for Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and other Persian Gulf states, as the administration seeks to strengthen ties.

Ross, a veteran diplomat who helped steer negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in the 1990s under former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, will serve as special adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said in a statement on Monday.

“This is a region in which America is fighting two wars and facing challenges of ongoing conflict, terror, proliferation, access to energy, economic development and strengthening democracy and the rule of law,” Wood said in a statement announcing the appointment.

US President Barack Obama’s administration is reviewing its policies in the region, including seeking more effective ways to persuade Iran to give up a suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons. Iran also is pivotal as a neighbor of Afghanistan and Iraq, where the US has about 183,000 soldiers.

Obama and Clinton say they’re open to engaging Iran should it signal its interest in cooperating with demands from the US and other UN Security Council members. The administration also needs the help of Arab nations in the Gulf on reaching a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians and on energy security.

Wood said Ross would offer “strategic advice” and perspective on the region, coordinate new policy approaches and take part in “inter-agency activities.”

“Ambassador Ross brings a wealth of experience not just to issues within the region but also to larger political-military challenges that flow from the area and have an impact outside of the Gulf and Southwest Asia, and the secretary looks forward to drawing on that experience and diplomatic perspective,” Wood said.

Ross is the third high-profile diplomatic advisor or envoy to be appointed to Clinton and Obama. Last month former senator George Mitchell was appointed special envoy to the Middle East and Richard Holbrooke was appointed special representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Ross is currently counselor at the Washington Institute of Near East Policy.

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