U.S. taps envoy for Muslim outreach without fanfare
|Wednesday, July 1,2009 06:48|
The choice of Farah Pandith to serve as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton"s "special representative to Muslim communities" was disclosed in an internal memo to State Department employees dated on Tuesday.
Asked about news reports of the appointment, the department spokesman, Ian Kelly, confirmed it.
Obama has made improving U.S. relations with Muslims around the world a signature theme of his presidency.
Asked why the State Department had not formally announced Pandith"s appointment, Kelly noted it had been disclosed in an internal memo.
When a reporter suggested there might be broader interest in the fact among Muslims worldwide, he replied, "Fair point."
Kelly said he could not say whether Pandith was a Muslim, although two U.S. officials said privately that they believed she was. Pandith was not immediately available for comment.
Since the September 11 attacks, the U.S. government has labored to improve its image with Muslims abroad.
Former President George W. Bush named one of his closest aides, Karen Hughes, to be the State Department"s top public diplomacy official with a mission to engage Muslims and to combat negative views of the United States abroad.