Obama names new ambassadors

May 28, 2009 12:00 am

, WASHINGTON, May 28  – President Barack Obama named several new ambassadors including to Japan, India and Sri Lanka, amid heightened tension in Asia over North Korea’s nuclear tests, unrest in Pakistan and ethnic tension in Sri Lanka.

Obama named longtime technology-focused lawyer John Roos as US ambassador to Japan, and named Democratic former congressman Timothy Roemer to be his envoy in India, the White House said.

Roemer served on the blue-ribbon commission investigating the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States and on a key committee to prevent nuclear proliferation.

He represented a district from the midwestern state of Indiana from 1991 to 2003.

Roos is chief executive of the Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati law firm, and during his tenure "helped lead the firm during the various waves of innovation in Silicon Valley," according to a White House statement.

Obama also named Patricia Butenis, a career diplomat who has previously been posted in Baghdad, Pakistan and New Delhi, as ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Charles Rivkin, a major California fundraiser for Obama’s successful 2008 presidential bid, was nominated to be ambassador to France.

Rivkin, the CEO of Wildbrain animation studios, is also a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council — a group of individuals from outside the federal government that advises the Homeland Security secretary — and a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy.

For the much-sought appointment to London, Obama picked Louis Susman, a retired vice chairman of Citigroup Corporate and Investment Banking.

Susman, based in Obama’s hometown of Chicago, has also raised hundreds of millions of dollars for the president’s Democratic Party. He practiced law in the midwestern US city of St. Louis for 27 years before joining the Salomon Brothers investment bank in 1989, where he practiced corporate law.

Laurie Fulton, a white collar criminal defense expert and partner at the Washington-based Williams & Connolly LLP law firm, was nominated for the top US diplomatic post in Denmark.

Fulton served on the board of directors of the US Institute of Peace from 2004 to 2008, and has been active in groups as diverse as the Girl Scouts Women’s Advisory Board and the South Dakota Farmers Union Foundation.

Obama turned to career diplomat Christopher William Dell — who has served as deputy chief of mission in Afghanistan since 2007 — as ambassador to the Republic of Kosovo.

And he tapped Robert Connan, a top official at the US mission to the European Union since September 2008, to represent him in Iceland.

Obama also named new US ambassadors to Brazil and Argentina, the two largest and most economically vibrant countries in South America.

Thomas Shannon, a career diplomat and the top State Department official in charge of Western Hemisphere Affairs since October 2005, was named ambassador to Brazil.

Shannon earlier served as a top official in charge of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the National Security Council from 2003 to 2005, and served in several other senior State Department posts, including director for Andean Affairs (2001-2002).

He was posted earlier in Venezuela, South Africa and Brazil, and was recently in La Paz in an attempt to calm tense US-Bolivian relations.

Obama has also named the Texas-born Vilma Martinez, a partner at the California-based Munger, Tolles & Olson law firm, as the US envoy to Buenos Aires.

Among other positions Martinez served as president of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), a Hispanic-American pressure group, for nine years.

The nominations require confirmation by the US Senate.


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