Obama names Patterson ambassador to Egypt

AFP , Saturday 21 May 2011

Barack Obama appoints Anne Peterson as ambassador to the critical post in US-Middle East diplomacy after she held the sticky post in Pakistan

Anne Patterson
Anne Patterson

President Barack Obama on Friday named former Pakistan troubleshooter Anne Patterson as the next US ambassador to Egypt, a key ally which Washington hopes will become a model for Arab democracy, the White House said.

Pending Senate confirmation, Patterson will replace Margaret Scobey, who has served in the post for just over three years and was present when a pro-democracy revolution toppled US ally Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in February.

Patterson previously served from July 2007 to October 2010 as the US ambassador to Islamabad, which has long had a tense relationship with Washington as a front-line ally in the decade-long war on terrorism.

By naming Patterson, Obama signaled he wanted a tested career diplomat to serve in Cairo where she will deal with the new ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which is steering a more independent diplomatic course from Mubarak.

The new Egypt has signaled closer ties with anti-US Iran and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group.

After helping to ease Mubarak out of power, the United States is trying to keep Egypt as a major ally in the war on terrorism and ensure it preserves its 1979 peace treaty with Israel, the cornerstone of US diplomacy in the region.

If confirmed, Patterson will likely confront lingering bitterness among Egyptians that the decades-long US alliance with Mubarak came at the expense of their human rights.

As she headed to Cairo for a visit in March, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States sought a partnership with Egypt in its transition to democracy.

Egypt's military said on Thursday that the country will hold its first parliamentary election since Mubarak's overthrow as scheduled in September and then prepare a constitution before a presidential poll.

Clinton has also said that the United States has "an enormous stake in ensuring that Egypt and Tunisia provide models for the kind of democracy that we want to see."

Setting an example for Egypt, Tunisians toppled their president, Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, in a pro-democracy revolution in January.

In a bid to shore up Egypt's fledgling democracy and mitigate the economic side effects of the revolution, Obama promised Thursday to forgive one billion dollars (700 million euros) in Egyptian debt and provide one billion dollars in aid.

Obama also said the United States has asked the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to present a plan at next week’s G-8 summit for "what needs to be done to stabilize and modernize the economies of Tunisia and Egypt."

Patterson has also served as Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs as well as Deputy Permanent Representative and Acting Permanent Representative at the US Mission to the United Nations.

She was also US ambassador to Colombia and US ambassador to El Salvador.

Like Clinton, Patterson is a graduate of Wellesley College. She joined the Foreign Service in 1973.

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