Nikki Haley appointed as US ambassador to UN

Nikki Haley appointed as US ambassador to UN

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 23: South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley holds a news conference with fellow members of the Republican Governors Association at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce February 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. Republican and Democratic governors met with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House Monday during the last day of the National Governors Association winter meeting. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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.”

The Republican-controlled Senate will need to confirm her appointment before she officially takes 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.

She had endorsed Florida Senator Marco Rubio during the Republican primaries, later throwing her support behind Senator Ted Cruz – Mr Trump’s final rival before he became the party’s nominee.

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.

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.

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

She took a public stand against resettling Syrian refugees in South Carolina and also opposed President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law.

Mrs Haley 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 after a racially motivated shooting at an African-American church in Charleston.

Earlier this month, she was elected vice-chair of the Republican Governors Association, paving the way to becoming chairman of the group in 2018.

Mrs Haley, who is in her second and final term as governor, was elected in 2010, riding the wave of the Republican Tea Party with the support of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

Before becoming the state’s chief executive, she served six years as a member of the state’s House of Representatives.

Mrs Haley, who was raised in a Sikh household and now identifies herself as a Christian, is married to Army National Guard Capt Michael Haley – who has served in Afghanistan’s Helmand province – and has two teenage children.

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