Nicholas Burns quits State Dept.


Nicholas Burns, the third-ranked State Department official who led the U.S. strategic dialogue with Israel, is resigning.

Burns, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, announced his resignation Friday.

The picture of an affable, unflappable American diplomat, Burns, 51, led the U.S. team in the strategic dialogue with Israel when it resumed in late 2005 after a three-year hiatus sparked by Israeli arms sales to China.

Reports said he is considering a run for office in his native Massachusetts, although it is unclear for which party. Burns, who joined the State Department in 1983, has held senior positions under Republicans and Democrats.

Burns raised Israeli eyebrows last fall when, as the keynote speaker at an American Task Force for Palestine dinner, he expressed sympathy for the plight of Palestinian who live in exile.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice named William Burns – no relation – as Nicholas Burns’ replacement. William Burns, now ambassador to Moscow, was the top Middle East officer at the State Dept. in the early part of this decade.

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