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Obituary: U.S. Ambassador To Libya Chris Stevens


The late U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens

The late U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens

A year and a half after arriving in Benghazi with aims of helping Libyans transition to democracy, U.S. Ambassador John Christopher (Chris) Stevens has died along with three other Americans after an attack on the U.S. Consulate in that port city.

Stevens had served in the U.S. State Department since 1991. Fluent in Arabic in French, his tenure included postings in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Israel, and Libya, as well as a stint working with the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on issues in the Middle East.

Most recently, Stevens had been the U.S. government's point man in dealing with Libya's Transitional National Council, the loose coalition of militias and politicians that, with close coordination and air support from NATO, overthrew Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

When Stevens arrived in the rebel-held port city of Benghazi in April of 2011 -- via a Greek cargo ship -- it marked his second posting in Libya. Having served in the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli from 2007-09, Stevens was an expert on the country and its various factions. He was also the author of one of the more famous WikiLeaks cables, which had been written for then-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warning her of Gaddafi's eccentricities and "mercurial nature."

After the rebel victory, in prepared remarks for his confirmation hearing in the U.S. Senate in March 2012, Stevens wrote optimistically about the rebels and the potential for the United States to help.

"There is tremendous goodwill for the United States in Libya now. Libyans recognize the key role the United States played in building international support for their uprising against Qadhafi," Stevens wrote. "I saw this gratitude frequently over the months I served in Benghazi -- from our engagements with the revolution's leadership to our early work with civil society and new media organizations."

Stevens's biography on the U.S. Embassy website was notably upbeat about what was happening in Libya. "Ambassador Chris Stevens considers himself fortunate to participate in this incredible period of change and hope for Libya," the site reads.

On August 26, Stevens delivered remarks upon the reopening of the U.S. Embassy's consular section in Tripoli, answering what he said was the most common question from citizens of the newly-freed Libya: "When will the U.S. start issuing visas again?"

The answer from Stevens was, "Tomorrow."

"It is a tragic irony," "Foreign Policy" magazine editor David Kenner wrote in the wake of Stevens's death a year and a half after arriving in Libya, "that the U.S. diplomat who had done so much to free Benghazi from the grip of a dictator that it despised would die at the hands of that city's residents only months later."

Written by RFE/RL correspondent Zach Peterson

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