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U.S. picks retired diplomat to serve as envoy in Libya

Laurence Pope, a former U.S. ambassador to Chad and senior State Department counter-terrorism official speaks at Angelo State University in
Laurence Pope, a former U.S. ambassador to Chad and senior State Department counter-terrorism official speaks at Angelo State University in

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has chosen a veteran diplomat who retired more than a decade ago to serve as its senior envoy in Libya following the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens in a September 11 attack in Benghazi, the State Department said on Thursday.

Laurence Pope, a former U.S. ambassador to Chad and senior State Department counter-terrorism official, has arrived in Tripoli to serve as "charge d'affairs," the title given to a diplomat who represents a country in the absence of an ambassador, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.

"Mr. Pope's selection as charge d'affairs emphasizes the commitment of the United States to the relationship between our two countries and to the people of Libya as they move forward in their transition to a democratic government," Nuland said.

"We will continue to assist as Libya builds democratic institutions and broad respect for the rule of law - the goals that Ambassador Stevens worked hard to achieve," she added.

Stevens and three other Americans were killed during what the United States has called a "terrorist" attack on the American mission in Benghazi on September 11.

The incident has triggered a debate in Washington over whether the ambassador, and the U.S. mission in Benghazi more broadly, were given sufficient protection.

At a partisan and at times rancorous congressional hearing on Wednesday on events leading to the death of Stevens, security officers described uphill bureaucratic battles for resources to protect U.S. personnel and facilities.

The assault forced the evacuation of U.S. personnel from Benghazi, the eastern city that was the hub for the Libyan rebel movement that, with the assistance of NATO-led air strikes, toppled former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi last year.

Pope's 31-year career as a foreign service officer, which ended with his retirement in 2000, included stints as political adviser to the commander of the U.S. military's Central Command, which covers much of the Middle East, and as the State Department's director for Northern Gulf Affairs. He speaks Arabic and French.

(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Will Dunham)

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