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Senior US State Department Diplomats Leave Posts

FILE - The U.S. State Department building is seen in Washington, D.C.

Several U.S. diplomats who make up much of the senior management team at the State Department have stepped down, days before President Donald Trump's choice to head the department is expected to receive Senate confirmation and take over.

Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy's departure, set for Friday, was previously reported. According to The Washington Post, Kennedy had sought to continue, under the incoming secretary of state, managing the State Department's budget, facilities and logistics.

The Post and The Associated Press said two assistant secretaries stepped aside Wednesday: Assistant Secretary for Administration Joyce Barr and Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele Bond. Gentry Smith, director of the Office of Foreign Missions, also was departing. All are career officers with the Foreign Service.

Earlier, Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, also stepped aside. Gregory Starr, the assistant secretary for diplomatic security, retired on Inauguration Day, as did Lydia Muniz, director of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations.

Also, Reuters reported that Tom Countryman, acting undersecretary for arms control and international security, was leaving.

In confirming the most recent departures, Mark Toner, acting State Department spokesman, said in a statement that the positions were political appointments, requiring a presidential nomination and Senate confirmation.

"Of the officers whose resignations were accepted, some will continue in the Foreign Service in other positions, and others will retire by choice or because they have exceeded the time limits of their grade in service," Toner said. "No officer accepts a political appointment with the expectation that it is unlimited."

Neither the State Department nor the officials linked their departures explicitly to the Trump administration, but the resignations followed a visit to the department by Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson, who was confirmed to have been in the building Tuesday.

Kennedy became embroiled in the controversy surrounding former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private email server. He was said to have pressured the FBI to declassify information in one of the emails, in return for allowing more FBI agents to be posted overseas. The State Department denied any quid pro quo was offered.

Kennedy was appointed to his management position by former President George W. Bush, a post he held through former President Barack Obama's two terms.

VOA's Steve Herman and Nike Ching, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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