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Thune Urges Obama to Recall Ambassador to Syria

Thune Urges Obama to Recall Ambassador to Syria

By Erin McPike - April 2, 2011

LAS VEGAS, Nevada - South Dakota Sen. John Thune called Saturday for the ouster of U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford.

Thune harshly criticized the Obama administration for recent activities in Syria, a nation that remains dogged by terrorist activity. "We should not be calling the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, a ‘reformer,' as Secretary of State Clinton did this past week," he said.

But the next order of business, he said, is that "President Obama should recall the U.S. ambassador from Damascus immediately." He continued, "Syria didn't deserve to be rewarded with an official ambassador in the first place, but the president did it anyway. We should not compound that error by keeping our ambassador in place."

The Bush administration pulled an ambassador from Syria in 2005, and Republicans roundly criticized Obama's recess appointment of Ford late last year.

Thune also sharply criticized Obama for sanctioning only two companies under the energy prong of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2010.

The South Dakotan, who serves as the fourth-ranking Republican in Senate leadership, announced in February that he would not seek a run for the White House in 2012, but he continues to be mentioned as a vice presidential contender for the GOP nominee next year, and is frequently mentioned as a future leader of the Republican conference in the Senate.

His remarks before the Republican Jewish Coalition's winter meeting at the Venetian resort here received a standing ovation, and he delved deeply into American policies toward the Middle East. Aides said he has been expanding his foreign policy portfolio for months, and that knowledge likely will come in handy in the coming months as the government broadens its efforts in the Middle East with its recently increased turmoil.

Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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