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President-elect Donald Trump has chosen South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. "Governor Haley has a proven track record of bringing people together regardless of background or party affiliation to move critical policies forward for the betterment of her state and our country," the president-elect said in the statement. REUTERS/Chris Keane(reuters_tickers)
By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Donald Trump's pick for U.N. ambassador will echo his condemnation of the world body's treatment of Israel at her Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday, although offering some praise for an organisation the president-elect has disparaged.
Nikki Haley, a rising star in the Republican Party, will face tough questioning from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about her lack of experience in foreign policy and the federal government. Haley, who turns 45 on Friday when Trump takes office, has been governor of South Carolina since 2011.
In prepared testimony seen by Reuters, Haley seconded harsh criticism by Trump and many of their fellow Republicans and some Democrats over the United Nations' treatment of Israel, especially a Security Council resolution last month demanding an end to settlement building.
"Last month's passage of UN Resolution 2334 was a terrible mistake, making a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians harder to achieve," Haley said in her prepared remarks.
The United States declined to veto the resolution, a move Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as "shameful.' After the Dec. 23 vote, Trump took to Twitter to criticise the 193-member world body, warning that "things will be different" at the United Nations after he takes office, without offering any details.
Several days later, Trump tweeted: "The United Nations has such great potential but right now it is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!"
Promising to work with Congress to push for reforms at the world body, Haley said: "The American people see the U.N.'s mistreatment of Israel, its failure to prevent the North Korean nuclear threat, its waste and corruption, and they are fed up."
But she praised some U.N. work, including aid programs she said had helped millions of people, weapons monitoring and some of its peacekeeping missions, a departure from Trump's criticisms of the international organisation.
Some lawmakers who have met with Haley also said her comments in private meetings had differed from some of Trump's positions, such as praising Russian President Vladimir Putin and questioning the value of the NATO alliance.Other Trump national security nominees, notably former Exxon Mobil Chairman Rex Tillerson, his choice for secretary of state, and defence secretary nominee, retired Marine General James Mattis, have also veered from Trump's positions during their Senate hearings.
EXPERIENCE AT ISSUE
A number of senators, including some Republicans, have said privately they hope some of Trump's Cabinet appointees will rein in his more controversial positions on Russia and other issues.
"I would far rather have a strong-willed, capable elected leader with experience at the state level who says those things than someone who has been a diplomat for 30 years and says: 'Oh, I'll do whatever Donald Trump says,'" Democratic Senator Chris Coons told reporters after meeting with Haley on Tuesday.
In her prepared testimony, Haley acknowledged her lack of diplomatic experience but said she thought her role as governor would stand her in good stead.
"I would suggest there is nothing more important to a governor's success than her ability to unite those with different backgrounds, viewpoints, and objectives behind a common purpose," she said.
Coons and other Democrats said they were still worried about her lack of experience.
"My concern is that our adversaries in the United Nations are represented by very seasoned, very capable, very sharp-edged diplomats," said Coons, a member of the Foreign Relations committee,
Haley did not speak to reporters.
Democrats and Republicans last year praised Haley, the daughter of immigrants from India, after she led a push to remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the state capitol after a white supremacist killed nine black churchgoers in Charleston.
She is expected to have strong support from Republicans, despite her lack of foreign policy experience, and she already has fans at the United Nations in New York.
"She's a very respected politician and a highly regarded and results-driven professional," France's ambassador, Francois Delattre, told reporters on Tuesday. Delattre met Haley in his previous role as French ambassador to the United States.
(Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by John Walcott and Peter Cooney)