Obama appoints new Mideast coordinator

WASHINGTON (AFP) - President Barack Obama has appointed a new coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf, the White House announced on Saturday.

Mr Philip Gordon, a veteran foreign policy expert, will take up his post on Mar 11.

The appointment came two weeks before Mr Obama is set to visit Israel, Ramallah in the occupied Palestinian territories and Jordan.

National Security Adviser Tom Donilon praised Mr Gordon as a "key member" of Mr Obama's foreign policy team who was the "perfect person" to coordinate US policy.

"His work with our European allies and partners has been indispensable in helping us to formulate policy and address issues around the globe, including Libya, Syria and Iran," Mr Donilon said in a statement.

"His work on international security, international economics and European and Middle Eastern Affairs make him the perfect person to coordinate our policy in this time of great challenge and opportunity in the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf."

Mr Gordon joins a team that includes Mr Puneet Talwar, special assistant to the president and senior director for the Gulf states, Iran and Iraq, and Mr Prem Kumar, acting senior director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Mr Gordon has served as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs since May 2009, with responsibility for US policy in 50 countries, as well as Nato, the European Union and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Before that, he was a foreign policy adviser to Mr Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign and served as director for European affairs at the National Security Council under president Bill Clinton.