US Secretary of State John Kerry has prompted a Gallic shrug by refusing to speak French at his maiden news conference in the new position.
Asked to answer a question with a “bit of French please”, John Kerry said: “Not today. I got to refresh myself on that.”
The response surprised some in the francophone world as John Kerry attended a Swiss boarding school and is known to speak the language well.
He was speaking after meeting his Canadian counterpart in Washington.
John Kerry’s knowledge of French prompted scorn from the right-wing US press during his unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 2004, due to the souring of US-French ties over the war in Iraq.
Since then, he has played down his language proficiency, bolstered during childhood summers spent at his mother’s family estate in Brittany.
Foreign Minister John Baird was the first foreign dignitary to be welcomed to the state department by John Kerry since he took office last week.
Speaking alongside John Baird at his maiden press conference as the top US diplomat, John Kerry urged Iran to address concerns about its nuclear programme.
The 69-year-old former Massachusetts senator said the US was committed to preventing Iran from securing a nuclear weapon and would continue its policy of both pressure and engagement to try to bring this about.
He said the international community would respond, if – as he put it – Iran was ready to talk substance at the negotiations to take place in Kazakhstan later this month. Iran insists its nuclear programme is solely for civilian purposes.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has prompted a Gallic shrug by refusing to speak French at his maiden news conference in the new position
The 2004 Democratic presidential candidate was greeted by a cheering crowd of employees on Monday in the large black-marble lobby of the state department.
John Kerry succeeds Hillary Clinton who, in her four years as the top US diplomat, visited 112 countries and notched up nearly a million air miles.
In a speech to staff, John Kerry joked that he had “big heels to fill”.
The new state department head has spent much of his first week getting in touch with foreign leaders.
Last weekend, he spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
John Kerry also contacted the foreign ministers of Japan, South Korea, Turkey and Mexico, as well as John Baird.
Born in 1943 in Aurora, Colorado
Became first Vietnam veteran to testify to Congress on the war
Elected to Senate in 1984 and chaired foreign relations committee since 2009
Failed presidential run in 2004 against incumbent George W. Bush
John Kerry is the wealthiest man in the Senate, worth more than $184 million
Hillary Clinton held a farewell address to state department staff on her last day as America’s top diplomat.
Hillary Clinton, 65, leaves the post after four years, visits to 112 countries and nearly a million air miles.
She will be replaced by John Kerry, a Massachusetts senator, who was sworn in at a private ceremony on Friday.
The former first lady is now discussed as a possible candidate for the 2016 presidential election.
Hillary Clinton said leading the agency as the 67th US Secretary of State had been a “unique and singular, exciting and challenging” experience.
She acknowledged the attack on the US embassy in Turkey – a sobering reminder of the everyday global threats that will face her successor.
“I am very proud of the work we have done together,” she told her staff.
“Of course, we live in very complex and dangerous times, as we saw again just today at our embassy in Ankara, where we were attacked.”
But she said she was “more optimistic” now than when she took up her post in 2009.
“I am so grateful that we’ve had a chance to contribute in each of our ways to making our country and our world stronger, safer, fairer and better,” she told staff.
Hillary Clinton held a farewell address to state department staff on her last day as America’s top diplomat
Earlier in the day, Hillary Clinton officially tendered her resignation to President Barack Obama, her former bitter rival in the 2008 race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
In her letter, she said she was more convinced than ever of America’s strength as a global leader and its potential to be a force for good.
Hillary Clinton has been coy about a possible White House run in four years’ time. She has said she has no specific plans for the future, but that she “absolutely” still plans to make a difference on issues she cares about.
“I am going to be secretary of state until the very last minute when I walk out the door,” she told the Associated Press on Thursday.
“And then I am going to take the weekend off and then I may start thinking about all the various offers and requests and ideas that have come my way.”
Hillary Clinton’s time in office will also be remembered for the attack last September on a consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed a US ambassador and three other Americans. She has apologized for that security failure.
White House has announced that UN Ambassador Susan Rice has withdrawn her name for consideration to succeed Hillary Clinton as US secretary of state.
In a letter to President Barack Obama, Susan Rice said her confirmation process would be “disruptive and costly”, NBC News said.
Susan Rice has been at the centre of Republican criticism over the Obama administration response to a deadly attack on a US consulate in Libya.
Hillary Clinton has said she will not serve a second term at the state department.
In a letter to President Barack Obama, Susan Rice said that she was “highly honored” to be considered for the post of secretary of state and was “fully confident that I could serve our country ably and effectively in that role”.
But she added: “I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly – to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities.”
“That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country,” Susan Rice wrote.
UN Ambassador Susan Rice has withdrawn her name for consideration to succeed Hillary Clinton as US secretary of state
Barack Obama said in a statement: “I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks.”
He added that her decision to withdraw from consideration reflected strength of character and an ability to rise above politics.
Days after the September 11th assault on the US consulate, Susan Rice, 48, said in a series of TV interviews that it seemed to have developed out of protests over an anti-Islamic film.
But later intelligence reports suggested the attack was carried out by al-Qaeda affiliates.
Her comments triggered a major political row over who knew what and when.
The attack left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Hillary Clinton has arrived in Turkey for talks on the worsening crisis in neighboring Syria.
The US Secretary of State will meet Turkish leaders as well as Syrian opposition activists.
They are expected to discuss preparations for a transition of power in Syria if the government of President Bashar al-Assad falls.
The UN says there has been a surge in the number of civilians fleeing violence in Syria, especially from the northern city of Aleppo.
Turkey, like all of Syria’s neighbors, is dealing with a growing humanitarian crisis as thousands of refugees flood across the border.
Rebels in Aleppo say they are preparing a counter-attack after withdrawing from the strategic south-west district of Salah al-Din under heavy bombardment.
High on the agenda of Hillary Clinton’s talks there is how to best co-ordinate support for the fractured Syrian opposition.
Hillary Clinton has arrived in Turkey for talks on the worsening crisis in neighboring Syria
US officials say the secretary of state wants to understand Turkey’s position and its concerns as conditions in Syria deteriorate.
Hillary Clinton is also expected to announce more humanitarian aid for those fleeing the violence.
Turkey is currently supporting more than 50,000 Syrian refugees with more arriving every day.
The talks will also focus on plans for what US officials call “the day after Assad”, our correspondent says, taking steps towards a future Syria that Washington hopes will be pluralistic and democratic.
Among US concerns are reports that a growing number of al-Qaeda linked militants are fighting alongside rebels in Syria.
US intelligence officials quoted by AP news agency said at least 200 militants linked to al-Qaeda are already operating in Syria, and their numbers are growing as foreign fighters enter the country.
US officials fear they could establish a presence similar to that in Iraq, which could be hard to defeat if rebels eventually oust President Bashar al-Assad.
Analysts say it could be one reason why Washington has been reluctant to offer military assistance to the anti-Assad insurgency.
Sporadic violence was reported around Syria on Friday.
Journalists from Reuters news agency reported seeing residents fleeing Aleppo with cars packed with possessions, taking advantage of a lull in the fighting.
AFP news agency reported that a bakery in the city’s eastern Tariq al-Bab district had been hit by a shell, killing about 12 people and injuring at least 20.
State news agency Sana also reported that government forces had repelled a rebel attack on Aleppo’s international airport.
The opposition Syrian National Council said part of Aleppo’s 13th-century citadel had been damaged by shelling.
Activists also reported fighting in suburbs of the capital, Damascus.
President Bashar al-Assad is facing down stiff international pressure to step aside despite months of anti-government protests and worsening violence.
Bashar al-Assad has suffered a string of high-status defections, including his former Prime Minister Riad Hijab, who fled to Jordan earlier this week.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has arrived in Israel for talks expected to focus on Iran, the peace process and Egypt.
Hillary Clinton will meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as President Shimon Peres and other officials.
She was in Egypt over the weekend, where she met new President Mohammed Mursi.
Hillary Clinton is expected to share her impressions of the new Egypt with Israeli officials.
She will tell officials in Jerusalem that Egypt’s President Mohammed Mursi reiterated in private what he has said in public – that Egypt will abide by all its international agreements.
Those agreements include a peace treaty with Israel.
Israel said to be anxious about the rise of Islamists in neighboring Egypt after the ousting of Hosni Mubarak, who was a long-time American ally.
Hillary Clinton has arrived in Israel for talks expected to focus on Iran, the peace process and Egypt
On her trip to Cairo, Hillary Clinton met President Mohammed Mursi and, separately, the head of Egypt’s top military council, Field Marshal Mohamad Hussein Tantawi.
The president has been in conflict with the military council, which ruled the country after Mubarak was forced out, over parliament’s dissolution.
On Saturday, Hillary Clinton told Mohammed Mursi that the situation required “compromise and real politics” but also voiced support for a “full transition to civilian rule”.
The secretary of state also encouraged Mohammed Mursi to live up to promises to protect the rights of women and minorities, and to preserve the peace treaty with Israel.
In her talks with Field Marshal Mohamad Hussein Tantawi on Sunday Hillary Clinton discussed the transition of power to the newly elected president and stressed the need to protect the rights of all Egyptians, US officials said.
Speaking later at the newly re-opened US consulate in Alexandria, Hillary Clinton said: “I want to be clear that the United States is not in the business, in Egypt, of choosing winners and losers, even if we could, which of course we cannot.”
Hillary Clinton also held meetings with leading women, the Coptic Christian community and young entrepreneurs in Egypt.
She said: “Democracy is not just about reflecting the will of the majority. It is also about protecting the rights of the minority.”
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was targeted by protesters who threw tomatoes and their own shoes at her motorcade during a visit to Egypt on Sunday.
Demonstrators also mockingly chanted “Monica, Monica” in reference to Bill Clinton’s extra-marital affair with Monica Lewinsky.
Hillary Clinton was on her first trip to Egypt since the election of the country’s new Islamist President, Mohammed Mursi.
During the protests in Alexandria, a tomato struck an Egyptian official in the face, and shoes and a water bottle landed near the armored cars carrying Hillary Clinton’s aides.
Hillary Clinton was targeted by protesters who threw tomatoes and their own shoes at her motorcade during a visit to Egypt
A senior State Department official said that neither Hillary Clinton nor her vehicle, which were around the corner from the incident, were struck by any of the projectiles.
As well as the shouts of “Monica”, some demonstrators chanted, “Leave, Clinton”.
The assault on her motorcade came on the day Hillary Clinton spoke at the newly re-opened U.S. consulate in Alexandria, addressing accusations that the U.S., which had long supported former president Hosni Mubarak, was meddling in Egyptian politics.
“I want to be clear that the United States is not in the business, in Egypt, of choosing winners and losers, even if we could, which of course we cannot,” Hillary Clinton said.