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Prime Minister Stephen Harper has tapped diplomat and Foreign Affairs veteran John McNee as Canada's new representative at the United Nations, replacing Allan Rock.

The news came as Mr. Harper formally announced that former finance minister Michael Wilson will also serve as Canada's ambassador to the United States, taking over from Frank McKenna.

Rumours of Mr. Wilson's appointment had been circulating throughout the week.

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Even before the formal announcement, a Toronto-based business group had issued a press release Thursday heralding the designate ambassador's participation in a media event next week.

Mr. McNee's appointment, however, had been kept under wraps despite speculation that Mr. Rock's tenure in the UN post may be coming to an end in the wake of the Conservatives' sweep to power.

Mr. McNee, a veteran of Foreign Affairs Canada, is currently Canada's ambassador to the Belgium.

In Thursday's announcement, Mr. Harper praised the work of both Mr. McKenna and Mr. Rock and welcomed the incoming appointees to their new posts.

"These two individuals are very distinguished in their respective fields and share a strong commitment to our country," Mr. Harper said.

"Strong Canada-U.S. relations are a priority for my government."

He said Mr. Wilson's experience in the financial sector will help him serve as a "strong advocate for Canada in negotiations with our most important bilateral partner."

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Mr. McNee, he added, "exemplifies the virtues of diplomacy at its highest level." In addition to Mr. McNee's work as an ambassador, he also served on former prime minister Pierre Trudeau's task force on international peace and security as well as at the Privy Council Office.

"His in-depth knowledge of issues important to our multilateral agenda and his work on the government's task force on international peace and security make him the ideal candidate to advance Canadian interests at the United Nations," Mr. Harper said.

Mr. McNee joined the Department of External Affairs in 1978 and served abroad in Madrid, London and Tel Aviv.

From 1993 to 1997, he was ambassador to Syria. For much of that time, he also served simultaneously as this country's envoy to Lebanon.

At Foreign Affairs in Ottawa, he served in the policy development secretariat and in the Canada-United States trans-boundary division. He also held the post of director of personnel and as director general for the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf States bureau.

Mr. Rock had served as Canada's ambassador to the United Nations since early 2004.

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