WASHINGTON (AP) — The post of U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom is vacant once again.
The State Department says Suzan Johnson Cook has left the position she's held for the last year and a half.
Prior to her confirmation in April 2011, the diplomatic post sat vacant for two years, prompting critics to question the Obama administration's commitment to promoting religious liberty abroad.
In a statement Thursday, the State Department says the U.S. will continue to call for "protection of religious minorities" and support international efforts "to combat religious intolerance in a manner that does not block the flow of free expression."
The 1998 law creating the ambassador's post also calls for naming "countries of particular concern" that restrict religious freedom. The listed countries have included North Korea, China and Saudi Arabia, but other issues usually have received higher diplomatic priority.