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US Senate Confirms Hagel as Pentagon Chief

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The U.S. Senate has confirmed Chuck Hagel as the next U.S. defense secretary.

The Senate approved the nomination Tuesday in a vote of 58 to 41.

That action came hours after the Senate voted to end debate on the nomination, clearing the way for confirmation in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

President Barack Obama praised the confirmation, saying the United States will, in his words, "have the defense secretary our nation needs and the leaders our troops deserve." A White House statement called the decorated former infantry soldier "an American patriot."

Hagel, who used to be a Republican U.S. senator, faced criticism from his former colleagues.



Senate Republicans delayed a full vote on Hagel's nomination nearly two weeks ago, raising concerns about his views on the Middle East and the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Some Republicans also accused Hagel of being too lenient toward Iran and too critical of Israel. Critics also found fault with him for opposing the 2007 U.S. troop surge in Iraq.

Despite the criticism, Senate Republicans said late Monday they would stop delaying the "up or down" vote on the nomination.

Hagel succeeds retiring Pentagon chief Leon Panetta.

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FILE - President Barack Obama waves as he boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland en route to Southeast Asia, November 17, 2012.

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