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LeMieux drops opposition to Obama nominee

WASHINGTON — Florida Sen. George LeMieux on Thursday dropped opposition to one of President Barack Obama's diplomatic appointees, saying he was assured the administration was addressing concerns in Honduras and Cuba.

LeMieux had put a procedural "hold" on Tom Shannon as the nominee for ambassador to Brazil, citing various concerns.

A State Department official sent him a letter that did not exactly make concessions but stressed it would continue to work on important issues in Honduras and Cuba and enforce existing U.S. policy, including sanctions.

While not uncommon in the Senate, LeMieux's liberal use of holds in the short time he has been in office — appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist in September to fill out the final 16 months of Mel Martinez's term — has drawn notice.

Some have seen the Shannon hold as a political bone to anti-Castro Cubans in Miami — a key voting bloc for Crist, who is seeking the Senate seat and is running against fellow Republican Marco Rubio, who was the first Cuban-American speaker of the Florida House.

LeMieux, who has his own political ambitions, denies such machinations. He said he has a concern for the western hemisphere.

"As a senator from Florida, the gateway to Latin America, it is incumbent upon me to focus on U.S. policy as it relates to the Western Hemisphere," he said in a statement.

"It is my assessment that U.S. foreign policy in the hemisphere stands at a critical juncture. Our actions in the region signal to all countries where we stand on our commitment to respecting democracy, human rights and the rule of law."

LeMieux drops opposition to Obama nominee 12/17/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 17, 2009 10:47pm]
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