Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 00:26 am (KSA) 21:26 pm (GMT)

US Senate republicans block Syria envoy nominee

Democrats sought to confirm Robert Ford, a widely respected career diplomat (File)
Democrats sought to confirm Robert Ford, a widely respected career diplomat (File)

President Barack Obama's Republican foes in the U.S. Senate blocked a Democratic attempt Friday to confirm his nominee to be ambassador to Syria, amid an election-year feud over policy towards Damascus.

Democrats sought to confirm Robert Ford, a widely respected career diplomat, by a process called unanimous consent -- a common step for uncontroversial nominations, but one that can be blocked if just one senator objects.

Republican Senator Tom Coburn, acting on his party's behalf, objected.

Republicans have said they have nothing against Ford but are skeptical of the merits of sending a new ambassador to Syria five years after then-president George W. Bush withdrew the top envoy there.

Democrats have said it is time for Washington to have more of a voice in Damascus, but some worry privately about making the case for engaging that government ahead of November mid-term U.S. elections.

Republicans accused Democrats of bringing up Ford and other nominations on Friday to make "a political point" about what they consider the slow pace of confirming Obama's nominees.

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