AP via the New York Times:
R. Nicholas Burns, the country’s third-ranking diplomat and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s right-hand man, is retiring for personal reasons, the State Department said Friday.They're dropping like flies, all on Friday afternoons; this one for personal reasons with no job lined up. What do you know?
The White House said that it was nominating William J. Burns, the United States ambassador to Russia, to replace him as under secretary of state for political affairs. The two men are not related. Like R. Nicholas Burns, William Burns is a career Foreign Service official. He has served as assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs as well as ambassador to Jordan.
“This is a very bittersweet time for us because Nick Burns has decided that it is time for him to retire,” Ms. Rice said in announcing Mr. Burns’s resignation in the State Department’s ornate Treaty Room. “He has decided that it’s the right moment to go back to family concerns.”
R. Nicholas Burns, 51, has led the administration’s efforts on Iran, serving as the United States negotiator with the five other countries — Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — that have been seeking to rein in Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. Mr. Burns has thrived under a succession of administrations, both Republican and Democratic.
He was the lead negotiator on an India nuclear agreement, and has had a role in almost all of the Bush administration’s major foreign policy initiatives. A senior administration official close to Mr. Burns said that he was retiring so that he could focus on getting his three daughters through college.
Mr. Burns has not lined up his next job, but has dismissed talk of running for office in Massachusetts, his home state.
During an interview, Mr. Burns said he was proud of the administration’s offer in 2006 to hold talks with Iran if it agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment. “It’s very important that we continue the effort to find a way toward negotiations with Iran,” he said.
He said that he believed that the United States and NATO still had some distance to go in managing the military presence in Afghanistan, where forces from the United States and several allies are working to end the Taliban-led insurgency. “I’ve spent a lot of time trying to help organize our efforts in Afghanistan, and that is a singular challenge for us,” he said.