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News Wrap: U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Crocker Stepping Down

May 22, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
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KWAME HOLMAN: The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, is stepping down from his post a year early for health reasons. The announcement today said Crocker will leave in mid-summer. He came out of retirement in July to take the job in Kabul after having served as ambassador to Iraq.

In Washington, the State Department spokeswoman underscored Crocker’s decision wasn’t about policy differences.

VICTORIA NULAND, State Department spokeswoman: He wanted to make it clear that this shouldn’t in any way be seen as a lessening of his personal commitment and our national commitment, obviously, to Afghanistan. If you got a chance to see the fuller statement that he put out to his embassy and the larger ISAF community, I think his heart will always be a little bit in Afghanistan.

KWAME HOLMAN: The president now will have to nominate a replacement for Crocker. In the interim, James Cunningham, currently serving under Crocker in Kabul, will become acting ambassador.

Iran and the U.N. nuclear agency were said to be close to agreement today to allow inspections of key Iranian sites. The head of the U.N. agency, Yukiya Amano, spoke after meeting with Iran’s chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili. He said he expects to sign a deal soon, once some remaining issues are worked out.

YUKIYA AMANO, director general, International Atomic Energy Agency: The decision was made by me and Mr. Jalili to reach agreement on the structured approach. Mr. Jalili elaborated that the existing difference will not be the obstacle for agreement.

KWAME HOLMAN: Amano said the agreement would give inspectors access to the top-secret Parchin military complex. Tomorrow, Iran resumes nuclear talks with representatives of the U.S. and five other nations. They will meet in Iraq.

In Egypt, five police officers were sentenced today to 10 years in prison for killing protesters during last year’s political uprising. They’d been convicted in absentia, and could yet qualify for new trials. But the convictions themselves were a rarity. More than 800 protesters were killed in the demonstrations that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Their families say authorities have made only token attempts to bring the killers to justice.

Greece may be considering dropping out of the euro currency. That word came late today from a former prime minister, and it quickly erased Wall Street’s gains for the day. The Dow Jones industrial average ended with a loss of a point to close above 12,502. The Nasdaq fell eight points to close at 2,839.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.