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Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 01:22 GMT 02:22 UK
US envoy is old Mid-East hand
US Ambassador to Jordan inspects land mine equipment with Jordanian army chief of staff Abdel Hafez Meree
Mr Burns has long experience with Jordanians
William Burns, who has been nominated to be the new US Middle East point man, first served in the region nearly 20 years ago.

He began his diplomatic career as a junior political officer in Jordan in 1982, worked in Middle East issues with the National Security Council, and returned to Amman in 1998 as ambassador.

He is strongly committed to a US role in the region, he told the US Senate in a confirmation hearing last week.

William J Burns
Currently US ambassador to Jordan
Worked on Wye negotiations, October 1998
Served as Middle East specialist for the National Security Council
Degrees in international relations, Oxford
Fluent in Arabic, French and Russian
"Active American engagement in the Middle East is a necessity, not an option," he said on Thursday.

Mr Burns, 44, worked with the late King Hussein of Jordan to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians and was at the Wye Plantation negotiations in 1998.

If confirmed as Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, he will take up the post held by Dennis Ross under former Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush Snr.

Immediate start

He is highly regarded and unpretentious, Stephen Cohen of the Israel Policy Forum told the Reuters news agency.

"This is so universally admired a man, which is an unusal thing for these kinds of competitive appointments," Mr Cohen said.

"He knows what the problems are, he doesn't pretend to himself that it's easy," he added.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell
Mr Burns will report to Colin Powell
In announcing the nomination of Mr Burns on Monday, Secretary of State Colin Powell said that Mr Burns would immediately begin working with US envoys in Israel on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mr Burns told the Senate that "violence is a dead end for both peoples.

"But a 100% effort to stop the violence will not be sufficient. Economic hope must be rebuilt, incitement must be eliminated," he added.

Mr Burns will report directly to Mr Powell and to President George W Bush, the Secretary of State said.

A career diplomat, Mr Burns studied international relations at Oxford and speaks Arabic, Russian and French.


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21 May 01 | Middle East
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