Story Highlights• NEW: Zalmay Khalilzad to be the next U.N. ambassador, sources say
• NEW: Administration sources say Ryan Crocker will take Khalilzad's job
• Afghan native Khalilzad, 55, is U.S. ambassador to Iraq
• Crocker is a veteran Middle East diplomat
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, is the leading candidate to be the next American ambassador to the United Nations, three Bush administration officials told CNN Thursday.
However, two of the sources indicated that President Bush was not yet prepared to make an announcement of the appointment.
Ryan Crocker, a veteran Middle East diplomat who is the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, is expected to be nominated by Bush to replace Khalilzad in Baghdad, two senior administration officials told CNN.
If nominated for the U.N. job, Khalilzad would replace John Bolton, whose recess appointment to the post ended Thursday.
Despite nearly two years of trying, Republican leaders could not push his permanent confirmation through the Senate.
Khalilzad, 55, a native of Afghanistan and a Sunni Muslim, has been the U.S. ambassador to Iraq since June 2005.
He was previously U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.
Crocker, 57, has previously served as U.S. ambassador in three countries bordering Iraq -- Lebanon, Kuwait and Syria.
In 2003, he was also a high-ranking official in the Coalition Provision Authority, which governed Iraq after the U.S. invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.
In March 2005, Bush nominated the outspoken Bolton, then an assistant secretary of state, to be U.N. ambassador.
But amid opposition from most Democrats and a handful of Republicans, Senate GOP leaders could not push through his confirmation.
So, in August 2005, when Congress was in recess, Bush used his constitutional power to make recess appointments to put Bolton in the post temporarily, without Senate approval, while continuing to fight for his confirmation.
Bush resubmitted Bolton's nomination to the Senate in November, just two days after Democrats won control in the midterm elections.
But when it became clear that he would not be confirmed, Bolton informed Bush he had decided to leave the post when his recess appointment expired at the end of the year.
CNN's John King and Elise Labott contributed to this report.
Afganistan-born Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, is the top candidate for U.S. ambassador to the U.N., sources said.
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