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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 October 2018

Nikki Haley shocks Trump administration with resignation as UN Ambassador

She is one of the most popular politicians in the United States, liked by her staff and has built a good rapport with international colleagues. But, despite it all, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley decided to call it quits and resign on Tuesday.

The resignation, first reported by Axios, sent shockwaves across Washington. A US official speaking on condition of anonymity told The National that “no one had seen it coming in the White House,” at least not four weeks before the midterm elections. Ms Haley only told her staff on Tuesday morning, according to CNN.

But despite being caught off guard, US President Donald Trump gave Ms Haley a presidential send-off in delivering the announcement from the Oval Office.

“You have been very special to me,” Mr Trump said, addressing the outgoing ambassador who will finish her term by the end of the year. The US President said Ms Haley added “glamour” to the position and exalted about her record on issues such as the US’ standing at the United Nations, defending Israel, showing toughness on Iran and moving the ball on North Korea.

The outgoing ambassador returned the praise. She gave the US President credit for reaffirming Washington's clout on the international stage and keeping the US’ word in responding to chemical weapons attacks in Syria and moving the country's embassy to Jerusalem.

Ms Haley is a staunch defender of Israel at the United Nations and has supported the embassy move, cutting UNRWA’s funding and leaving the global body’s Human Rights Council. She has also built a personal relationship with the Trump family.

Calling Mr Trump’s adviser and son in law Jared Kushner a “hidden genius,” Ms Haley said the “Middle East peace plan is so unbelievably well done”.

But on one issue that raised speculation, Ms Haley dismissed any presidential run against her current boss in 2020. “No, I am not running in 2020 and I can promise you what I will be doing is campaigning for this one,” she said, pointing at Mr Trump who was happily nodding and smiling.

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Almost two years into the job, Ms Haley said it was just time to let someone else step in. A UN source told The National that Ms Haley has been getting increasingly frustrated with US National Security Adviser John Bolton, who was a former UN ambassador. Mr Bolton has been exerting more influence on foreign policymaking in the administration than his predecessor HR McMaster. Mr Trump said Ms Haley told him “probably six months ago” that she may be leaving, that is around the same time that Mr Bolton got the job last April.

The administration has a list of names and Mr Trump expected a decision in “two or three weeks” in naming a successor.

One of the names mentioned is former deputy national security adviser Dina Habib Powell who hails from an Egyptian background. According to Ms Haley’s Twitter account, the two just spent the weekend together in South Carolina.

"Introducing sweet friends to one of our favorite places,” Ms Haley wrote.

Another name being floated is the Mr Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who reportedly misses her husband Jared and life in New York. But the list also includes several Republican foreign policy figures such as former Senator from New Hampshire Kelly Ayotte and outgoing Republican Senator and head of the Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker.

Richard Grennell, the current US ambassador to Germany, is also among the names mentioned in the US media as a possible replacement.

Any nomination will require confirmation by the Senate which would have to wait after the midterm elections on November 6. Ms Haley was confirmed by 96-4 in January 2017.