WASHINGTON — Without debate, the Senate on Monday confirmed Fort Smith native Anne W. Patterson as assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.

WASHINGTON — Without debate, the Senate on Monday confirmed Fort Smith native Anne W. Patterson as assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.


Patterson, a career diplomat who most recently served as ambassador to Egypt, will lead the State Department’s diplomatic efforts for the Middle East.


Arkansas Sens. Mark Pryor, a Democrat, and John Boozman, a Republican, issued statements Monday in support of Patterson.


"As a Foreign Service officer, Anne has spent her career advancing U.S. interests across the world, including in some of the most volatile regions of the globe," Boozman said. "Anne is a highly respected diplomat whose expertise and experience will serve her well in her new role. I am confident that under her leadership she will help promote and protect our national security."


"Anne Patterson has a long record of service, from being an ambassador abroad to taking on critical assignments here at home. I’m proud to support her nomination, and to call her an Arkansan," Pryor said.


The Senate voted 78 to 16 to confirm her.


In August, President Barack Obama nominated Patterson, 64, to become an assistant secretary of state after serving two years as ambassador to Egypt. She had previously served as ambassador to El Salvador, Colombia and Pakistan.


During a September confirmation hearing, Patterson offered a clear-eyed view of the complex and difficult challenges ahead for diplomatic relations in a region that, she said, will remain volatile and unpredictable for some time to come.


"The region’s political and social trajectory has been broadly and irrevocably changed by the events of the last two and a half years," she said.


Among her top priorities, she said at the September hearing, would be disabling Syria’s chemical weapons capability and preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.


The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved her nomination by voice vote in October after she sailed through a September confirmation hearing. The top Democrat and Republican on the committee praised her as exceptionally qualified.


"She was in the eye of the storm as the winds of the Arab Spring began to blow across the region and her expertise and experience served her well," the chairman, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said at the hearing.


Although highly respected by the Senate committee, Patterson was a controversial figure in Egypt where she was seen as discouraging street protests against the newly elected government led by Mohamed Morsi.


Patterson began her career at the State Department in 1973.