The State Department assigned a new chief of diplomatic affairs to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Friday, announcing the departure of current Ambassador Anne Patterson, who has served at the embassy during a the
tumultuous past two years and has now been nominated to become assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs.
In a statement, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said that David M. Satterfield, who served as ambassador to Lebanon from 1998 through September of 2001, will now take over "temporarily as charge d'affaires" at the embassy in Cairo.
Prior to Friday, Mr. Satterfield had been serving as director general of the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai Peninsula. "His experience makes him the ideal diplomat to assume the important role of charge d'affaires in Egypt," Mr. Kerry said.
The secretary of state, however, stressed that Mr. Mr. Satterfiled's appointment is "temporary" and that he "will return to the MFO later this year." The State Department did not specify who else may be in the running to take charge of the embassy in Cairo for the long term.
Mrs. Patterson's tenure at the post was marked by periods of tension with Egyptians. Things most notably boiled over last fall, during the days surrounding the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on
the United States.
At the time, throngs of angry demonstrators stormed the outer walls of the embassy compound in Cairo before tearing down the American flag in an area directly outside the embassy and replacing it with a black Islamic flag, which many Western observers associate with al Qaeda.
The protesters cited anger toward an anti-Islam Youtube video that had been produced by a rogue filmmaker in the United States and was deemed insulting to Islam's prophet Mohammed.
During the protest's aftermath, U.S. Embassy officials came under scrutiny in Washington for having briefly posted on the embassy's website that appeared to sympathize with the demonstrators by criticizing those who had made the anti-Islam video.
"Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy," the statement said. "We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others."
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