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Biparty group of senators calls on Blinken to appoint someone to lead ‘Havana syndrome’ efforts

Lawmakers – led by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, prominent Republican member Jim Risch and Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen – said they “are extremely alarmed that reports of these incidents continue. to grow “.

“We believe this threat deserves the highest level of State Department attention and remain concerned that the State Department is not treating this crisis with the high level attention it requires,” said they wrote.

“In addition, although there has been progress, we continue to hear concerns that the ministry is not communicating sufficiently with diplomats who have been injured by these attacks or not responding sufficiently to diplomats,” he said. they wrote. “We are also concerned that the ministry is not sufficiently engaged in interagency efforts to find the cause of these attacks, identify those responsible and develop a plan to hold them accountable.”

Lawmakers called on Blinken to appoint a new senior official to lead the State Department’s efforts to respond to incidents following Amb’s departure. Pamela Spratlen after six months of work.

“It is essential that this position is a high level official who reports directly to you. It is up to this person to have the experience necessary to engage effectively with the people concerned and with the interagency,” they said. writing.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Thursday he expected the department to appoint a new official “in the next few days,” telling reporters at a press briefing that “the secretary appreciates the interest that Congress has shown in this matter.”

“This is very consistent with the priority he himself has attached to this,” he said, adding that Blinken “does not have a higher priority in the health and safety and security of our workforce and their families and dependents “.

He said the ministry had dispatched “teams of safety engineers and occupational safety experts to conduct investigations and inspections of places where these incidents were reported.”

“We have provided additional and improved inspection equipment to engineering service centers overseas, so that if an IAH is reported, we can quickly send those resources,” he said. declared.

Price also said the department has improved its internal protocols for the Health Incident Response Working Group, and noted the State Department’s pilot program to collect basic health information so they can be compared if anyone is affected by the incidents.

Reports of U.S. officials suffering from mysterious health problems continued to emerge. As reported by CNN, more than a dozen US officials working at the US Embassy in Colombia and their family members have reported symptoms consistent with “Havana Syndrome” in recent weeks, US official says. and a source close to the situation.
The letter praised President Joe Biden for enacting the HAVANA Act and urged Blinken to make its “swift implementation” a priority.

“Many victims waited for the adoption of this law to gain access to essential financial and medical support,” they noted. “The president’s signature and the bipartisan support behind the law send the unequivocal message that everyone involved must have access to benefits and financial support. We call on you to swiftly implement these provisions to ensure that the victims of these attacks have equitable access to care and treatment. “

“We owe it to our diplomats to exhaust all efforts to try to guarantee a full recovery,” they said.

The letter was also signed by Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Florida; Ben Cardin, D-Maryland; Chris Coons, D-Delaware; Bill Hagerty, R-Tennessee; Tim Kaine, D-Virginia; Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii; Cory Booker, D-New Jersey; and Mitt Romney, R-Utah.


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