Negroponte steps down to be Rice's new deputy

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The Independent US

In a shake-up of the Bush national security team, John Negroponte will step down as America's first national Director of Intelligence to become Deputy Secretary of State, serving under Condoleezza Rice.

The impending move, which is, if anything, a demotion, has caused some bafflement - not least because only last month Mr Negroponte said he expected to remain intelligence tsar until the end of the current administration in 2009.

The change is likely to have ramifications for policy on Iraq, where Mr Negroponte was US ambassador between 2004 and 2005. Word of the switch came as Mr Bush finalised new strategy on Iraq, including a "surge" of 20,000 or more troops in Iraq, mainly to restore order in Baghdad.

It also fills a top State Department post that has remained embarrassingly vacant since July, when Robert Zoellick resigned to take a job on Wall Street.