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Obama taps BYU grad to be ambassador to Libya

Published March 13, 2013 1:48 pm

Diplomacy • If confirmed by the Senate, she faces a scary region and political quagmire.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Washington • President Barack Obama has tapped Brigham Young University graduate Deborah K. Jones to become the next ambassador to Libya, attempting to fill the opening created after Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed in an attack on the American consulate in Benghazi.

Jones is a veteran diplomat who served as the ambassador to Kuwait from 2008 to 2011, when she was replaced by another BYU graduate, Matthew Tueller. Jones is from New Mexico, while Tueller still considers Utah his home.

Since 2011, Jones has served as a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C.

Tom Korologos, a Utah native who served as ambassador to Belgium under President George W. Bush, said Jones should take the nomination as a high honor.

"Obviously she is a pro," he said. "They sure think a lot of her to put her there."

He said the standard practice is for the president to send career diplomats like Jones to hot spots, and political appointees, like himself, to countries with fewer international issues.

"This is doubly important because of what happened last time," said Korologos, who worked for former Sen. Wallace Bennett, R-Utah, in the 1970s and for Republican presidents. "She goes in with huge problems she's facing because of what happened to the last ambassador."

If confirmed by the Senate, Jones will enter a challenging diplomatic environment in Libya, made all the more tense by the Sept. 11, 2012, attack. A heavily armed group stormed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, resulting in the death of four Americans, including Stevens, who was the first ambassador killed in action since 1979.

The incident turned into a political fight, with Republicans such as Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, accusing the White House of initially putting out misinformation about the cause of the attack. President Barack Obama has said that because of faulty intelligence, his team initially attributed the attack to outrage over a Web video attacking the Muslim faith.

mcanham@sltrib.com