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December 22, 2012

Kerry a familiar face on the world stage

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. John Kerry, President Barack Obama’s official pick for secretary of state, is a familiar face to the world leaders vital to American interests.

The son of a diplomat and Obama’s unofficial envoy, Kerry spent hours walking around the palace in Kabul persuading Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to agree to a runoff election in fall 2009. The relationship will be crucial in the coming months as the administration draws down U.S. forces after more than a decade of war.

In Pakistan, Kerry helped quell the anger after the U.S. incursion into the country to kill Osama bin Laden in May 2011. The uneasy ties between Washington and Islamabad will be a priority for Kerry at the State Department.

“He knows most of the world leaders,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “So when he goes into a country he will be a known quantity.”

The five-term Massachusetts senator has spent his entire congressional career on the Foreign Relations Committee, the last six as chairman. He has traveled extensively both as intrepid lawmaker and administration emissary.

Fulfilling a Kerry dream, Obama on Friday tapped the 69-year-old lawmaker, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, to replace Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for the top job at Foggy Bottom.

“I think it’s fair to say that few individuals know as many presidents and prime ministers, or grasp our foreign policies as firmly as John Kerry,” Obama said in making the announcement. “And this makes him a perfect choice to guide American diplomacy in the years ahead.”

Kerry is expected to sail to confirmation, with both Republicans and Democrats praising the nomination. His friend, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., jokingly referred to him as “Mr. Secretary” earlier this month, a remarkable turn as just eight years ago Republicans ridiculed Kerry as a wind-surfing, elitist flip-flopper in his bid for the White House.

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