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US Ambassador to the UN.
American U.N. Nominee: a Veteran Emissary
WASHINGTON (Reuter) - Bill Richardson, nominated by President Clinton to
be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations,
has a way with foreign strongmen and hostage-takers.
In trouble-shooting trips abroad, the 49-year-old New Mexico congressman
and confidant of the president has used
persuasive powers and tenacity to achieve humanitarian and diplomatic
goals that had eluded official Washington.
As administration emissary, he has negotiated with leaders in Burma,
Haiti, North Korea and Iraq, including a trip to North
Korea in November to win the release of a young American detained for
three months on espionage charges.
No sooner was that accomplished than Richardson traveled to a remote area
of Sudan in December to help win the release of
three Red Cross workers held hostage by a rebel leader.
Back home, the dark-haired, burly, rumpled-looking Richardson is a member
of the Democrats' leadership team in the House,
a campaigner for American Indians who make up a significant part of his
New Mexico district, and a senior member of the
House Energy Committee.
A star baseball pitcher at school who passed up the chance of becoming a
professional, he has also been named the most
valuable player in the annual game between Capitol Hill Democrats and
Richardson, former chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, is of
mixed American and Mexican ancestry, speaks
fluent Spanish and grew up mostly in Mexico City, where his father was a
He was a vocal proponent of the North American Free Trade Agreement,
backing Clinton against top House Democratic
leaders on that issue.
Richardson made his first international foray as leader of an
international delegation to Burma in 1994 when he met for five
hours with Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under
Richardson was the first non-family member allowed to meet the Nobel
Peace Prize winner. He also had talks with Burmese
leaders, urging her release, and Suu Kyi was later freed.
The same year, he traveled to Haiti to warn strongman Raoul Cedras he
faced a U.S. invasion unless he stepped down.
A difficult mission to North Korea followed. While he was in Pyongyang to
nail down a nuclear agreement, a U.S. helicopter
strayed over the border and was shot down. The crewman was killed and the
pilot taken prisoner.
Switching signals, Richardson insisted on talking about the pilot,
refusing to change the subject or leave the country. After five
days of grueling negotiations during which he ran up a bill of $10,000
for calls to Washington, Richardson left with a Korean
promise to free the pilot, who was later released along with the
Another tough mission followed in 1995 when Richardson met Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein to negotiate the release of two
American engineers who had strayed over the border from Kuwait. His
humanitarian appeal secured the two men's freedom.
William Blaine Richardson was born in California Nov. 15, 1947. He
majored in international relations at Tufts University in
Massachusetts and took a Master's degree at the school's prestigious
Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He moved to
Washington and worked at the State Department and on the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee staff.
After moving to New Mexico, he won a House seat in 1982 on his second
attempt, joining the House Energy and Commerce
Committee, an important assignment for a member from a state with
important oil, gas and Energy Department interests. He
won an eighth two-year House term last November.
Clinton nominated Richardson Friday, along with William Daley for the
commerce secretary post.
Richardson is someone "who can not only talk but also act effectively,"
Richardson has shown a knack for negotiating the release of Americans
held prisoner abroad. Clinton pointed out that just this
week Richardson "was huddled in a rebel chieftain's hut in Sudan, eating
barbecued goat and negotiating the freedom of three
At the United Nations he would succeed Madeleine Albright, whom Clinton
has nominated to be his next secretary of state.
But a spokesman for conservative Sen. Jesse Helms, who chairs the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee, said Richardson
would face tough questioning on U.N. reform.
"The confirmation process is not going to be a rubber stamp process,"
spokesman Mark Thiessen said.
Clinton praised Daley, who led the 1993 drive for approval of the North
American Free Trade Agreement and more recently
orchestrated the Chicago Democratic Convention in August, as "a man of
At the crowded, stuffy news conference which had a moment of drama when
Daley fainted and fell off the stage, Clinton also
named White House aide Gene Sperling to head the National Economic
Council and said he wanted acting U.S. Trade
Representative Charlene Barshefsky to have permanent status.
All but Sperling require Senate confirmation, and initial reaction in the
Republican-led body to Clinton's latest flurry of
appointments was cautious.
Clinton also kept several administration holdovers on his second-term
team, announcing that Attorney General Janet Reno,
Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, Environmental Protection Agency
Administrator Carol Browner and White House budget
director Franklin Raines would all be retained.
He named Daniel Tarullo, who had been in the running to direct the NEC,
as his international economic adviser.
The flurry of appointments still left a number of other vacancies to be
filled, including the top jobs at the Departments of Labor,
Transportation, Energy and Housing, as well as his chairman of the
president's Council of Economic Advisers. Clinton hopes
to complete his team by Christmas.
[Reuter, 14 Dec 96].