U.S. envoy Syria to report for duty

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford is undergoing consultations in Washington before he leaves Saturday for duty in Syria, the U.S. State Department said.

A career diplomat and former Iraq point man, Ford was named in a December recess appointment as the U.S. envoy to Damascus.


U.S. President Barack Obama made six appointments to ambassador positions, with Ford's new post among the orders. The White House noted that all six appointments have been waiting for U.S. Senate action for at least five months.

Obama nominated Ford in February to serve as the next U.S. envoy to Damascus.

P.J. Crowley, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said during his regular press briefing that Ford was in Washington consulting with top officials.

"He departs for Damascus on Saturday," the spokesman said.

U.S. Republican lawmakers protested the Ford nomination in part because of Hezbollah and Scud missile concerns.

U.S. and Israeli officials have expressed concern over long-range missile transfers from Syria to Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon. Israeli officials in April and again in May said Syrian support for Hezbollah was upsetting the delicate security situation in the region.


Ford becomes the first envoy to Damascus since Washington severed diplomatic ties with Syria in 2005.

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