President Barack Obama Wednesday tapped a new ambassador to Libya, six months after the previous US envoy was killed in a brutal militant attack which shocked America to its core.
The announcement that career diplomat Deborah Jones is set to replace slain ambassador, Chris Stevens, came as the Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was in Washington for talks with senior officials.
Jones, who will have to be confirmed by Senate, carries a huge emotional weight into her new post with the scars of the September 11 attack on the US mission in Benghazi still raw in the American psyche.
Stevens, a popular diplomat both at home and in the Middle East, was killed along with three other American staff during an hours-long heavily-armed attack on the Benghazi compound and a nearby annex.
He was the first ambassador to be killed on duty since the late 1970s, and his death unleashed painful soul-searching at the State Department about the future of diplomacy in an increasingly dangerous world.
It also rocked the 2012 White House campaign, with the Obama administration coming under fire for security lapses and accused of trying to cover up the assault, now blamed on Al-Qaeda linked militants.
Zeidan, who is on his first official visit to Washington, met Wednesday with President Barack Obama who joined the Libyan leader’s talks at the White House with National Security Advisor Tom Donilon.
Despite a long investigation by both Libyan authorities and the FBI, no one has been charged in the Benghazi attack.
Zeidan vowed, however, as he met later with Secretary of State John Kerry that the Libyan government will “work with the United States of America in order to reach the truth. Who are the perpetrators of the crimes that were committed?”
“Who killed this dear friend and his colleagues and they must be brought to trial,” Zeidan said, speaking through a translator. “We are keen on reaching the truth and to see that justice is achieved.”
Kerry hailed the visit as historic saying Zeidan “represents his country’s first democratically elected government in more than 40 years,” adding Libya had lived “under the yoke of a dictator for decades.”
“Those who killed Americans in Benghazi will be brought to justice and I emphasize that today,” Kerry added, stressing that the United States “will continue to stand with Libya during this difficult transition.
Kerry praised Jones as “a very capable and experienced diplomat and I have no doubt that she’s going to help strengthen the partnership between us.”