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Biden picks diplomat who led secret talks with Iran as CIA chief

Burns was involved in back-channel negotiations with Iran that yielded the 2015 nuclear deal [Getty]

Date of publication: 11 January, 2021

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William Burns had been considered a likely candidate to lead the State Department under President-elect Joe Biden, given his deep experience with Iran.
US President-elect Joe Biden on Monday announced William Burns as his pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, tapping a retired veteran diplomat who helped lead secret talks with Iran.

Burns spent over three decades in the US foreign service, including a stint as ambassador to Russia from 2005-2008, and high-ranking jobs in the State Department.

"Bill Burns is an exemplary diplomat with decades of experience on the world stage keeping our people and our country safe and secure," Biden said in a statement released by his transition team.

Burns, who holds a masters and doctoral degrees from Oxford University, also served as US ambassador to Oman from 1998-2001.

He retired from the foreign service in 2014 and is the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, an international affairs think tank in the United States.

Burns had been considered a likely candidate to lead the State Department under Biden, given his deep experience with Iran.

He was involved in back-channel negotiations that set the stage for the 2015 deal to limit Iran's nuclear capabilities.

"The fact that we did it quietly or secretly caused a certain amount of controversy," he said in a 2016 interview.

"But the reality is that after 35 years without sustained diplomatic contact between the United States and Iran, there was a huge amount of baggage, a lot of mistrust, and a lot of grievances."

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