Saturday, May 14, 2005

'Conflict resolution expert' is next US envoy to RP

By John Nery Inquirer News Service

WASHINGTON, DC—The next American ambassador to the Philippines is a "conflict resolution expert" who knows both the nuances of Arabic and the intricacies of the Vatican.

Cameron Hume, until very recently the Inspector General of the US Department of State, is a "well-regarded" career diplomat in the department's Senior Foreign Service.

State Department officials declined to discuss his nomination, explaining that the White House has yet to make an official announcement. But at least four different sources in State confirmed that Hume, ambassador to South Africa from 2001 to 2004, would replace Baghdad-bound Francis Ricciardone. Last February, the Inquirer published a report about Hume's nomination, which Ricciardone downplayed at the time.

Philippine Ambassador Albert del Rosario said he welcomed the news about Hume, noting that he enjoyed a good reputation in diplomatic circles. Hume has also served as special adviser to the US representative to the UN, ambassador to Nigeria, deputy chief of mission at the Vatican, and political counselor in Syria and Lebanon. His experience as US representative to the Mozambique peace talks and as author of a study on changes in United Nations peacekeeping led Coexist magazine, an international organization of peace advocates, to call him a "conflict resolution expert."

New deputy chief of mission

Hume will be joined at the Manila embassy by a new deputy chief of mission. State officials also said that Eric John, the longtime counselor for political affairs at the South Korean Embassy, will replace the plain-speaking Joseph Mussomeli, who has been named ambassador to Cambodia.

John was already political counselor when Christopher Hill, now the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, served as ambassador to Seoul.

As Assistant Secretary, Hill essentially directs or coordinates US foreign policy for almost all of Asia. He will be served by a new Philippine country desk officer by August this year. Paul Wickberg will be replaced by another career diplomat, Nathaniel "Chip" Dean, who is currently posted at The Hague.

Author of 3 books

Even while declining to declare Hume's appointment for the record, State officials did not stint on their praise, describing him as a ''well-regarded" or ''very senior" career officer, with one source noting his academic credentials. Hume has written three books, including ''The United Nations, Iran and Iraq: How Peacemaking Changed."

In 1994, Hume was appointed a guest scholar at the US Institute of Peace, the same institution that the US government designated as a ''facilitator" in the peace negotiations between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

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