US & Canada

Trump names Nikki Haley as UN ambassador

In this 18 Nov 2016 photo, Nikki Haley smiles while speaking at the Federalist Society's National Lawyers Convention in Washington Image copyright AP
Image caption Nikki Haley was raised in a Sikh family

President-elect Donald Trump has named South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as US ambassador to the UN, praising his former critic as "a proven dealmaker".

She is the first non-white female cabinet-level official appointed to the incoming Trump administration.

Mrs Haley is the daughter of Indian immigrants and was a vocal critic of Mr Trump on the campaign trail.

A rising star in the Republican party, the 44-year-old is the youngest governor in the US.

Mr Trump said in a press release: "Governor Haley has a proven track record of bringing people together regardless of background or party affiliation to move critical policies forward for the betterment of her state and our country.

"She is also a proven dealmaker, and we look to be making plenty of deals. She will be a great leader representing us on the world stage."

Later on Wednesday, Mr Trump named his second female cabinet member - Betsy DeVos, as education secretary.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mrs Haley has been elected as vice chair of the Republican Governors Association

The Republican-controlled Senate will need to confirm both appointments before they officially take office.

In a statement, Mrs Haley said she was "moved" to accept the assignment and would remain the South Carolina governor, pending her congressional confirmation.

During the Republican primaries, she backed Florida Senator Marco Rubio and then Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

Although Mrs Haley eventually voted for Mr Trump, the governor said she was "not a fan" of either him or the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Diplomats relieved - BBC's Nick Bryant, at the UN

Eye-catching though her political career has been, little is known about Nikki Haley's views on foreign affairs and the United Nations. Diplomats here have been Googling her to find out more. When her nomination was announced I was with a senior diplomat, who had expected President-elect Trump to downgrade the job of UN ambassador so that it was no longer a cabinet-level position.

He was heartened that Mr Trump had selected a "political heavyweight", and viewed it as an early indication than the incoming administration will take the UN more seriously than he'd supposed. Certainly, she's no John Bolton, the US ambassador during the Bush administration who famously remarked that it would not make much of a difference if the UN headquarters in New York lost its top 10 floors - where the organisation's most senior figures, including the secretary general, have their offices.

Many UN diplomats fear a Trump presidency and there's relief here that he hasn't appointed an outspoken UN-basher.

She also sharply attacked Mr Trump's proposal to ban Muslim immigrants, calling it "un-American", as well as his refusal to release his tax records.

For his part, Mr Trump had called her "very weak on illegal immigration" and said South Carolinians were "embarrassed" by her.

But the newly minted president-elect, who will be inaugurated in January, invited her for a meeting last week at Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Her husband Michael (L) has served in Afghanistan's Helmand province

Mrs Haley has little previous foreign policy experience, though the Charleston Post and Courier reports she has taken at least eight trips abroad since becoming governor in 2011, mostly in support of economic development deals for her state.

During a trade mission to Europe in 2011, she was criticised by the newspaper for staying at expensive hotels and attending parties, costing the taxpayer $127,000 (£103,000).

Born Nimrata "Nikki" Randhawa, Mrs Haley was raised in a Sikh household and now identifies as a Christian.

She is the first minority and female governor of South Carolina, a deeply conservative state with a long history of racial strife.

She was praised by members of both parties in 2015 when she ordered the Confederate battle flag to be removed from the grounds of the state capitol.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mrs Haley signs an order to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Black South Carolinians applauded her decision to remove the flag

Mrs Haley, who is in her second and final term as governor, was elected in 2010, riding a wave of the Republican Tea Party.

She is married to Army National Guard Captain Michael Haley, and the couple have two teenage children.

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What does the job involve?

The job of the "permanent representative" to the UN is to represent US interests. As a member of the cabinet the ambassador must inform the president of UN activities and make recommendations for state actions.

The envoy has a role on the UN Security Council, with a permanent veto power.

Mr Trump has previously heaped scorn on the organisation, telling a gathering of pro-Israel lobbyists in March this year: "The United Nations is not a friend of democracy, it's not a friend to freedom, it's not a friend even to the United States of America."

Irish-born Samantha Power, an ex-White House adviser, former war correspondent and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, is currently in the post.

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