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US Ambassador Chris Stevens was 'courageous and exemplary,' Obama says

J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya who was among four Americans killed amid protests in Libya, was a "courageous and exemplary representative of the United States," President Barack Obama said in a statement on Wednesday.

The four -- who also included Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, a father of two -- "exemplified America's commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe," Obama said.


Born in 1960 in northern California, Stevens had been a diplomat for two decades after previously working as an international trade lawyer in Washington, D.C., according to his biography on the State Department website.

"Chris was committed to advancing America's values and interests, even when that meant putting himself in danger," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday in a statement posted on the official Facebook page of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.

 

Ben Curtis / AP, file

U.S. envoy Chris Stevens speaks to local media at the Tibesty Hotel in Benghazi, Libya, in this Monday, April 11, 2011 file photo.

"I had the privilege of swearing in Chris for his post in Libya only a few months ago. As the conflict in Libya unfolded, Chris was one of the first Americans on the ground in Benghazi. He risked his own life to lend the Libyan people a helping hand to build the foundation for a new, free nation. He spent every day since helping to finish the work that he started."

Stevens had only just taken up his appointment, arriving in May after having served two previous roles in the country: Special Representative to the Libyan Transitional National Council during the Libyan revolution from March 2011 to November 2011, and Deputy Chief of Mission from 2007 to 2009.

US ambassador, 3 others killed in attacks on Libya mission

He had also previously worked in Jerusalem, Damascus and Riyadh and was a Pearson Fellow with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. From 1983 to 1985 he taught English as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco.

A video posted on the U.S. Embassy's official YouTube channel in May showed Stevens introducing himself to the Libyan people and speaking of his excitement at his new role.

President Obama, alongside Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, condemns "in the strongest terms" the "outrageous and shocking attack" that claimed the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

He was fluent in Arabic and French, and had earned an undergraduate degree at the University of California at Berkeley in 1982, a J.D. from the University of California's Hastings College of Law in 1989, and an M.S. from the National War College in 2010.

'Smiling, easygoing'
The Washington Post reported that Stevens was "smiling, easygoing and friendly" and "well-known at the State Department and on Capitol Hill."

His efforts to improve relations between the U.S. and Libya were underlined at one of his most recent public appearances. At a reception in Tripoli on August 26, he announced that the issuing of U.S. visas to Libyans would resume the following morning, according to a report in The Tripoli Post.

"The reopening of our consular section will create new opportunities for deepening the ties between our two countries," the newspaper quoted him as saying. "Relationships between governments are important, but relationships between people are the real foundation of mutual understanding," Stevens said.

A statement from Frank Wu, Chancellor and Dean of the University of California's Hastings College of the Law, issued to NBC Bay Area station KNTV, said: "The Ambassador was performing the highest role that a lawyer is called upon to perform: public service. He and I communicated when he was appointed Ambassador. He had been looking forward to sharing his experiences with students when he returned. This is a tragedy. We mourn this loss."

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Select Committee on Intelligence, also issued a statement, saying: "I had the chance of meeting Ambassador Chris Stevens during his confirmation process and again when I visited Libya last year. He was an exemplary diplomat and his embassy staff could not have been more helpful and knowledgeable during my visit. My prayers are with the families and loved ones of these courageous diplomats who were working to help the Libyan people rise from the ashes of Gaddafi's rule."

Steven McDonald, a longtime friend of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens who was killed in the consulate attack in Libya, comments on his friend's compassion, integrity and commitment.

Lara Friedman, director of policy and government relations at Israeli-American charity, Americans for Peace Now, who described herself as a friend of Stevens, posted on Twitter that his death was "incomprehensible, tragic."

The BBC reported that, in diplomatic cables leaked by the WikiLeaks site in 2010, Stevens had once described Col. Moammar Gadhafi as "notoriously mercurial" and wrote that he could be an "engaging and charming interlocutor."

Sean Smith was a husband and a father of two, who joined the State Department ten years ago, Clinton's statement said. "Like Chris, Sean was one of our best. Prior to arriving in Benghazi, he served in Baghdad, Pretoria, Montreal, and most recently The Hague," it said.

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