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Former ambassador to Libya to be assigned another diplomatic post

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Canadian Ambassador to Libya Sandra McCardell visit one of Moammar Gadhafi's fortified compounds in Tripoli on OCt. 11, 2011.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Canada's ambassador to Libya has left her post, but will likely emerge in another diplomatic role in another Arabic-speaking country.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is standing behind Sandra McCardell, still widely viewed as a rising star in Canada's foreign service, despite questions about a potential conflict of interest surrounding the business dealings of her husband.

In January, Mr. Baird assigned his deputy minister to conduct an internal conflict-of-interest review after he learned about the business connection of Ms. McCardell's husband to the former regime of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

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In February, the CBC reported that Ms. McCardell's husband was hired by the Montreal engineering firm SNC-Lavalin to work as part of a military-civilian engineering unit with the Gadhafi regime.

"Ms. McCardell is the former ambassador to Libya and is currently waiting on her next assignment. Our chargé d'affaires in Tripoli will continue to serve as the interim head of mission until a new ambassador is selected," said Mr. Baird's spokesman Chris Day.

"Minister Baird has been clear on his views of Ambassador McCardell's great work in assuring the safety of Canadians on the ground in the lead-up to the liberation of Libya."

Ms. McCardell accompanied Mr. Baird to Tripoli for the official reopening of the Canadian embassy last October.

The embassy had been shut down in February, 2011, when the NATO-led bombing campaign began to protect Libyan civilians from Colonel Gadhafi's forces.

Col. Gadhafi was toppled from power in August and was still at large when Mr. Baird and Ms. McCardell reopened the embassy.

The former dictator was later captured and killed by one of the many militias that had taken up arms to fight his regime.

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Senior government officials, who were not authorized to speak about Ms. McCardell's case, said she has been back in Canada since November to undertake advanced language training in Arabic. The training was part of a professional development plan that Ms. McCardell agreed to last summer.

It is expected Ms. McCardell will be reassigned to another country where those language skills can be put to use, sources say.

Ms. McCardell has also regularly disclosed her husband's business activities to the Foreign Affairs Department to ensure she was not in breach of any ethics or values.

Sources say she received the proper assurances during her time in Tripoli. She assumed the ambassador's post there in July, 2009.

"This has nothing to do – zero – with the story that has been out there," said a senior official. "This is not a statement on her performance."

The Canadian Press

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