Page last updated at 12:37 GMT, Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Top US diplomat to Iraq 'named'

Christopher Hill
Christopher Hill has experience in Europe and Asia

The former US chief negotiator with North Korea, Christopher Hill, is to be the next American ambassador to Iraq, according to US media reports.

Mr Hill is a career diplomat, but has no known expertise on Middle East issues. He would replace Ryan Crocker.

As its top envoy to Iraq, Mr Hill would head the new US administration's approach to the country.

President Barack Obama has said the US plans to begin moves to "responsibly leave Iraq".

Mr Hill, who has wide experience in Europe and Asia, headed the US delegation to the six-nation disarmament talks with Pyongyang.

There has been no official confirmation, but the Washington Post newspaper said Mr Hill was an unexpected choice for the job, while also describing him as a "consummate deal-maker".

He would need to be formally nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the US Senate.

The current US ambassador, Ryan Crocker, is an Arabist and Middle East expert.

With General David Petraeus, Mr Crocker was behind changes in US policy in Iraq, credited by some with helping to reduce the violence there.

The US president is seeking a withdrawal from Iraq, in order to shift more combat troops to Afghanistan.

Mr Obama said on Sunday that Washington was in a position to place more responsibility in the hands of the Iraqis.

This followed the largely peaceful provincial elections in Iraq, held on Saturday.

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