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US Senate okays Gen Abizaid’s appointment as Ambassador to US

WASHINGTON: The US Senate approved the appointment of retired General John Abizaid as the US ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

The Senate voted overwhelmingly to confirm Abizaid as the US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, filling a vital position vacant since President Donald Trump took office more than two years ago.

The Senate voted 92 to seven for the 68-year-old retired four-star Army general, who led the US Central Command during the Iraq war.

Washington has not had an ambassador in Riyadh since January 2017, a 27-month period in which US-Saudi ties have become increasingly complicated over issues including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident and Washington Post columnist, at a Saudi consulate in Turkey.

Many in Washington have called for a tougher stance against the Saudis on matters such as the imprisonment of activists and dissidents, and the killing of civilians by air strikes from the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen war.

Despite intense criticism of Saudi Arabia, Trump has expressed reluctance to push too hard on Riyadh. He cites its multi billion-dollar purchases of US military equipment and investments in US firms, as well as its role as an important regional counterbalance to Iran.