WASHINGTON (AFP) – Prospects for veteran US diplomat Christopher Hill’s Senate confirmation as US ambassador to Iraq brightened Tuesday as one of his vocal critics pledged not to block the nomination.
"There are better choices out there. But at the end of the day we need an ambassador and, you know, he has many talents," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters after "a good meeting" with Hill last week.
"My concern is that this is a very important position. It would be better (to) have somebody who’s knowledgeable in the area, knows the players, but we’ll see," he said. "I will say he was very knowledgeable about Iraq."
Graham called the nomination "a work in progress" but pledged not to use a parliamentary tactic popularly known as a "hold" to stall the appointment, which requires vetting by the Senate.
The South Carolina lawmaker had joined Republican Senators John McCain and Sam Brownback earlier this month in urging President Barack Obama to pick someone else.
McCain, who met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday, declined to say whether he would impose a "hold" on the nomination, but indicated that could turn on Hill’s answers to a list of written questions.
"I’ve sent questions to him, and I await answers," said the Arizona lawmaker, who sidestepped questions about whether support for Hill from the top US military commander in the Middle East, General David Petraeus, and the top officer in Iraq, General Raymond Odierno, had swayed his thinking.
But Graham indicated the generals’ support for Hill had "absolutely" had an impact on him."I have nothing but great respect for Generals Petraeus and Odierno and they both seem high on him (Hill)," said Graham. "That’s certainly a plus in his column."
Republican Senator Richard Lugar, one of his party’s elder statesmen on foreign policy, said Hill’s confirmation’s prospects "are good" though any one senator could throw up parliamentary roadblocks.