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Burns retires, but will consult on Iran negotiations

If a long-term nuclear deal with Iran is achieved, it will be in no small measure due to the efforts of Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns addresses a news conference in Tunis February 1, 2014. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi (TUNISIA - Tags: POLITICS HEADSHOT PROFILE) - RTX183NL

When Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns accepted the Eurasia Foundation’s Sarah Carey award Oct. 21, he gave a classic, understated performance. Burns, who officially retires Oct. 24 after nearly 33 years in the Foreign Service, devoted most of his brief remarks to praising Carey, an early and avid proponent of US engagement with the Soviet Union, and spent almost no time dwelling on his own remarkable career.

One of only two career Foreign Service officers elevated to the State Department’s number-two position, which is usually reserved for political appointees, Burns is “unique,” in the words of former Undersecretary of State Thomas R. Pickering, for having served in high posts in both Democratic and Republican administrations. He is also unusual in Washington for his modest ego and ability to conduct sensitive negotiations in secret, as he has done most recently with Iran in the effort to achieve a breakthrough on its nuclear program.

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