Burns repeatedly has delayed his retirement by request and still has until next fall before exiting the Foreign Service, leaving time for him to step in to help should international negotiations on Iran's nuclear program hit a snag before a July deadline. He led a team that conducted back-channel negotiations with Iran that led to the current nuclear negotiations and other signs of a thaw in the long-frozen relations between Washington and Tehran.
Career diplomat William J. Burns, the State Department's second-in-command who's best known for leading secret talks with Iran and warning in vain of the dangers of invading Iraq, will step down in October after a diplomatic career that spanned more than three decades, U.S. officials announced Friday.
"I have relied on him for candid advice and sensitive diplomatic missions," President Barack Obama said Friday of Burns in a statement released by the White House. "He has been a skilled adviser, consummate diplomat, and inspiration to generations of public servants."
Secretary of State John Kerry issued a separate statement that recounted Burns' myriad postings through the years, from "Moscow to Amman," as well as senior-level positions in Washington. Kerry noted that Burns was only the second career Foreign Service member to rise to the No. 2 slot at State.
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