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U.S. Senate panel backs Huntsman to be Trump's ambassador to Russia

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously backed former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman to be President Donald Trump's first ambassador to Russia on Tuesday, clearing the way for his likely approval by the full Senate.

At his Sept 19 confirmation hearing, Huntsman had said there was "no question" Moscow meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, and pledged to bring up the matter with the Russian government.

Allegations that Russia interfered in the vote to boost Trump's chances of winning the White House, denied by both Trump and Moscow, have shadowed the first months of Trump's presidency.

Huntsman's tough line during his hearing was welcomed by several members of the foreign relations panel.

Many members of Congress, including several of Trump's fellow Republicans, are concerned the president will not take a hard enough line in dealings with Russia to combat Russian expansionism in eastern Europe or its support for Syria's government in that country's civil war.

A vote by the full Senate on Huntsman's confirmation has not yet been scheduled.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)