Senior State Dept official announces decision to retire

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Washington, Jan 19 (UNI) The US State Department's third-ranking official Nicholas Burns, has announced his resignation effective in March but to agreed to work on the stalled US-India civil nuclear agreement even after quitting the office.

Burns, who is undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, has been associated with the deal from the very beginning.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who announced the resignation at a brief press conference yesterday, said ''she had asked Burns to spend some time continuing to work on the India file, particularly because we would like to push the US Civil Nuclear Agreement to conclusion if possible and Nick has agreed to continue that work.'' Burns, in response, said he would support Secretary Rice's efforts to finish this very promising strategic opening with India which will do so much good for our country and our global foreign policy.

Congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs Tom Lantos (Democrat) also praised the role of Burns, saying he has been instrumental in bringing the US-India nuclear cooperation agreement to fruition, and thereby opening a new era in US-India friendship and cooperation.

''It is no exaggeration to say that without his indefatigable efforts, this agreement would not be possible,'' he said.

Burns, in the post for three years, has been a key diplomatic troubleshooter for Rice, handling key issues, the status of Kosovo, UN sanctions against Iran besides the US-Indian nuclear deal.

Later, President Bush announced his intention to nominate Ambassador William J Burns, a career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, to serve as new Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. Bill Burns is currently US Ambassador to Russia.

Bush also praised Nicholas Burns services to the country, especially his role in the US-India nuclear deal.

Officials and others here rule out any policy differences behind Nicholas Burns' decision. They say Burns, with three daughters at or nearing college age, wants to pursue a potentially more lucrative job in the private sector.

Burns had a meteoric career in the US Foreign Service. He was a White House policy adviser on Soviet affairs in the final years of the Cold War, and served as US ambassador to Greece and to NATO.

He became Undersecretary for Political Affairs, traditionally the top State Department job for a career foreign service officer, before the age of 50.

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