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Obama Names Key Members of Foreign Policy, National Security Team


President-elect Barack Obama announced the key members of his foreign policy and national security team Monday, including his choice of former political rival Hillary Clinton to be his secretary of state. In addition, Mr. Obama has decided to keep on the current defense secretary, Robert Gates. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone reports from Washington.

Mr. Obama announced his foreign policy and national security team at a news conference in Chicago.

The president-elect said it was time for a new beginning in what he called an uncertain world, and he described his team as ready to lead what he called a new dawn of American leadership around the world.

"We will strengthen our capacity to defeat our enemies and support our friends," Obama said. "We will renew old alliances and forge new and enduring partnerships. We will show the world once more that America is relentless in defense of our people, steady in advancing our interests, and committed to the ideals that shine as a beacon to the world-democracy and justice, opportunity and unyielding hope-because American values are America's great export to the world."

Mr. Obama's choice of Hillary Clinton to be his secretary of state has easily been the most surprising development so far in the presidential transition period.

Mr. Obama described his former political rival as someone who commands respect in world capitols and who can carry out his commitment to renew American diplomacy and restore alliances.

Mrs. Clinton said it would be difficult to leave the Senate, but added she was excited by the challenge of representing the U.S. abroad.

"We know our security, our values and our interests cannot be protected and advanced by force alone, nor indeed, by Americans alone," Clinton said. "We must pursue vigorous diplomacy using all the tools we can muster to build a future with more partners and fewer adversaries, more opportunities and fewer dangers for all who seek freedom, peace and prosperity."

In order to clear the way for Hillary Clinton's nomination as secretary of state, her husband, former President Bill Clinton, agreed to disclose the names of donors to his charitable foundation. Mr. Clinton will also clear his schedule and speeches with the State Department to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.

Mr. Obama's choice for defense secretary is Robert Gates, the man who currently holds the job under President Bush.

The president-elect said Gates has the respect of members of Congress from both political parties for his pragmatism and competence.

Gates also appeared at the news conference and said he was pleased to continue in his current job.

"I am deeply honored that the president-elect has asked me to continue as secretary of defense," Gates said. "Mindful that we are engaged in two wars and face other serious challenges at home and around the world, and with a profound sense of personal responsibility to and for our men and women in uniform and their families, I must do my duty as they do theirs. How could I do otherwise?"

Mr. Obama announced other appointments as well, including Eric Holder as his choice for attorney general and Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano as the next secretary of Homeland Security.

In addition, Mr. Obama has tapped retired Marine Corps General James Jones to be his national security advisor, and Susan Rice as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

At his news conference, Mr. Obama was also asked about the recent terror attacks in Mumbai, India.

Mr. Obama reiterated that the United States has only one president at a time. But he spoke out forcefully against the terror attacks and said his administration would support India's efforts to catch those responsible.

"Both myself and the team that stands beside me are absolutely committed to eliminating the threat of terrorism and that is true wherever it is found," the president-elect said. "We cannot have, we cannot tolerate, a world in which innocents are being killed by extremists based on twisted ideologies, and we are going to have to bring the full force of our power, not only military but also diplomatic, economic and political to deal with those threats."

Mr. Obama will be sworn in as the country's 44th president on January 20, and his cabinet members will have to be confirmed by the Senate before they can take up their new posts.

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