Obama to name James O'Brien hostage affairs envoy

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - President Barack Obama will name James O'Brien special presidential envoy for hostage affairs as part of a response to complaints about the government's handling of hostage situations.

O'Brien is currently vice-chairman of the Albright Stonebridge Group, a strategic advisory firm.

He worked at the State Department from 1989 to 2001 in various positions, including senior adviser to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the White House said in a statement on his appointment.

The hostage envoy position at the State Department was created after the Obama administration undertook a six-month review of its policy for handling hostage situations.

The review was spurred by complaints from families that their initiatives to free relatives captured by terrorists abroad had been discouraged and sometimes blocked by government officials.

Following the completion of the review, Obama in June said the government would pursue a more cooperative policy to allow the officials to work with families.

The administration said it would appoint a special envoy to coordinate the efforts of law enforcement and diplomats.

"In his new position, Jim will be focused on one overriding goal: using diplomacy to secure the safe return of Americans held hostage overseas," said Secretary of State John Kerry in a statement.

Kerry said O'Brien will be in close contact with families and foreign leaders and will help develop strategies for addressing hostage situations with other US policymakers.