U.S. Envoy Ward to Leave Middle East After Pullout

The U.S.'s security coordinator in the Middle East, Lieutenant General William Ward, is to leave his current post after the implementation of the disengagement plan, American diplomatic sources said yesterday.

Ward will be promoted and moved to a different position in the U.S. military, the Pentagon announced this weekend.

An American spokeswoman refused to say if a specific date has been fixed for Ward's departure, or if a replacement has been named.

Ward yesterday accompanied Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is currently on a visit to the region, to Ramallah, were she met with Palestinian leaders.

Ward assumed his current position as the deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army in Europe and the Seventh Army in 2003. Defense Minister Donald Rumsfeld has recommended the promotion of Ward to a four-star army general and his naming as deputy commander of United States European Command (EUCOM).

Israel and the Palestinian Authority are included under the area of responsibility of EUCOM. Ward's appointment still requires the Senate's approval, but is not expected to encounter any opposition.

Israel has attributed to Ward only partial success in improving Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' grip on his security forces, which are supposed to fight terrorism. However, Israel has praised the American decision to replace Ward with a senior military officer of his rank, and not with a diplomat like John Wolf, former secretary of state Colin Powell's envoy to the region.

Ward's trim military attire and the knowledge that the entire Pentagon stood behind him, in addition to George Bush and Condoleezza Rice, enhanced his influence to a significant measure.