Burns slated to replace Steinberg at State Department

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Bill Burns, a career U.S. diplomat and Washington’s pointman on dealing with Iran, has been chosen to replace Jim Steinberg as deputy secretary of state, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday.

As undersecretary of state for political affairs, the number three U.S. diplomat, Burns has had global responsibilities and has been Washington’s lead negotiator in the unsuccessful effort to persuade Iran to curb its nuclear program.

Among the most experienced members of the U.S. foreign service, Burns has served as U.S. ambassador to Russia and Jordan and as assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East.

Burns speaks Arabic, French and Russian and earned a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University, where he studied on a prestigious Marshall scholarship.

Steinberg, a deputy national security adviser under former President Bill Clinton, has accepted a new job as dean of the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, Clinton said in an e-mail to State Department staff.

Steinberg worked on President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign and was widely seen as a contender to be his national security adviser, a position that initially went to retired General Jim Jones and is now occupied by Tom Donilon.

Before becoming Clinton’s deputy, Steinberg was dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

In her e-mail, Clinton said it was Obama’s intention to nominate Burns to succeed Steinberg. Such positions are subject to the approval of the U.S. Senate, where Burns is highly regarded.

A Senate aide who spoke on condition of anonymity said Burns was well liked by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry, a Democrat, and by the panel’s top Republican, Senator Richard Lugar.

“His confirmation … should be smooth,” said the aide.

(Editing by Philip Barbara)

Burns slated to replace Steinberg at State Department