Samuel Jacobs: Stevens ‘was the best of American diplomacy’

Christopher Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya killed in Benghazi, was deeply involved in the transition of the North African state and had been Washington’s envoy to the rebels who overthrew dictator Muammar Gaddafi last year.

Stevens, 52, formally ambassador to Libya since May, was a California-born veteran diplomat, and an Arabic and French speaker. He served as deputy chief of mission in Tripoli between 2007 and 2009, in the waning years of Gaddafi’s brutal rule.

As the country dissolved into civil war, he was appointed the US envoy to the Transitional National Council, which was co-ordinating the revolt against Gaddafi, and returned aboard a Greek cargo freighter in April, 2011.

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President Barack Obama yesterday stressed Stevens’s deep ties to Libya and his commitment to helping Libyans build a democracy out of the chaos of war.

“It is especially tragic that Chris Stevens died in Benghazi because it is a city that he helped save,” Mr Obama said. Benghazi had been the cradle of the anti-Gaddafi revolt.Stevens graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1982, taught English as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco, and earned a law degree in 1989.

He joined the foreign service in 1991 and had postings in Cairo, Damascus, Riyadh, and Jerusalem, before working in Libya.

“He represented the very best of American diplomacy. He knew the streets, not the just the elites,” said friend Robin Wright, a journalist.