Accessibility links

Breaking News

Republican Senator Opposes Obama's Iraq Envoy Pick

Christopher Hill, the nominee to become the next U.S. ambassador to Iraq
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- A Republican senator has vowed to block nomination of President Barack Obama's choice for U.S. ambassador to Iraq, saying he had mismanaged talks with North Korea and ignored its human rights record.

The North Koreans "are now just as hostile and dangerous as ever," Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas told the Senate.

His opposition could make things difficult for nominee Christopher Hill, because if a senator objects to a vote being held it would take 60 senators to approve his nomination, and the Democrats control only 58 seats in the Senate.

Brownback held up photos of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz next to shots of a North Korean prison camp as he charged that Hill, the assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs, had left behind an "unfortunate legacy."

Hill, a former ambassador to Poland, Macedonia, and South Korea, is best known for his recent work as U.S. envoy to multilateral talks that sought to get North Korea to scrap its nuclear program.

The veteran diplomat does have some Republican support, including the backing of the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Richard Lugar, who has urged other senators to confirm Hill as soon as possible.

Lugar and committee chairman Senator John Kerry said Hill was a talented negotiator who needed to get to Baghdad quickly to manage the diplomatic side of the planned drawdown of U.S. troops.

Brownback went to the Senate floor to upbraid Hill a few hours after the diplomat appeared at a confirmation hearing by the committee. Brownback was not on the panel.

"Broken commitments to Congress, freelancing diplomacy, disregarding human rights, and giving up key leverage to the North Koreans in exchange for insubstantial gestures," Brownback said of Hill. "I do not acquiesce to this nomination."