Obama names career diplomat as US ambassador to Cuba

The chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba Jeffrey DeLaurentis, left, and Cuba's Interim Foreign Minister Marcelino Medina sit at a meeting prior to handing over of a letter from U.S. President Barack Obama for Cuba's President Raul Castro in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, July 1, 2015. The respective diplomatic missions called interests sections will be converted into embassies as soon as July 20, although the U.S. State Department says it does not yet have a date for a formal ceremony. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has tapped a career diplomat to be the first U.S. ambassador to Cuba in more than 50 years.

The White House announced Tuesday that Obama plans to nominate Jeffrey DeLaurentis to the post. DeLaurentis currently is the top diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Senate confirmation is required but could be tough to win before Obama’s term ends in January. Some Republican senators who oppose Obama’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba have promised to block any ambassador nomination.

Obama says DeLaurentis’ leadership was vital throughout the normalization process. He says nominating an ambassador is a “common-sense” step toward more normal and productive relations between the two countries.

Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced the resumption of diplomatic relations in December 2014.

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