Obama chooses John Kerry for secretary of state to succeed Clinton

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Kerry, the Democratic nominee for presidency in 2004 and a stalwart Obama supporter, had been widely tipped as the likely candidate for top U.S. diplomat following the withdrawal last week of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.

Rice had come under fire over controversial statements about the deadly September 11 attack on a U.S. mission in Libya, and some Republican lawmakers had vowed to block her path to becoming top diplomat.

The announcement of Kerry’s nomination could come as early as mid-week, a source knowledgeable of the situation told Reuters, although it could also be delayed to avoid the impression of an overly-hasty return to politics following the massacre at a Connecticut elementary school on Friday.

The source told the news agency the White House is leaning toward unveiling Kerry’s nomination as part of a high-profile package that would include his pick for defense secretary.

Former Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel is the top candidate to take over the Pentagon and the White House’s vetting process for him is virtually complete, the source told Reuters.

Obama met Hagel at the White House on Dec. 3 to discuss the post and has also spoken to Vice President Joe Biden, the source added.

While Obama is said to be generally comfortable with Hagel’s foreign policy views, there is some concern within the administration that his record of occasional criticism of Israel could create problems in the confirmation process.

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