US envoy to Sri Lanka named to top South Asian post

WASHINGTON, April 24, 2009 (AFP) – A veteran diplomat most recently tasked with the delicate job of Sri Lanka envoy was tapped Friday by President Barack Obama to serve as the assistant secretary of state for South Asian Affairs.

If approved by the Senate, Robert Blake will replace Richard Boucher in a job that deals with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Serving under Boucher as ambassador to Colombo and the Maldives, Blake has urged Sri Lankan officials to let civilians leave a safe zone where they are trapped with Tamil Tiger rebels waging a last stand in a 26-year civil war.

In announcing his nomination by Obama, the White House said Blake was also deputy chief of mission at the US Mission in New Delhi, India from 2003 to 2006.

A foreign service officer since 1985, Blake has also served at the US embassies in Tunisia, Algeria, Nigeria and Egypt. He also has held a number of positions at the State Department in Washington.

It was not immediately clear what Blake’s role will be in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which is covered by Obama’s special representative Richard Holbrooke.

Blake earned a b