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State Dept. Appointee Unlikely to Be Confirmed, Staffer Says

November 30, 2001|From a Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — President Bush's controversial choice of Cuban American activist Otto Reich to head the State Department's Western Hemisphere bureau is unlikely to clear the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a committee staff member said Thursday.

The committee has told the White House that approval of the nomination is not expected and that lawmakers would prefer a different nominee, the staffer said.

Bush picked Reich, a former ambassador to Venezuela, to be assistant secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere in March. The Foreign Relations Committee has not scheduled the appointment for a hearing.

Democrats on the panel consider him a polarizing figure who pursued hard-line policies toward leftist and communist regimes while serving in several posts in the Reagan administration. Critics also say Reich, who was born in Cuba and came to the United States as a child, is likely to focus on Cuba to the exclusion of other hemispheric issues.

The nomination has been in deep trouble from the start. Bush issued several statements calling for the confirmation of Reich but has been unable to persuade the committee to schedule a hearing.

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