A U.S. Senate panel has approved Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state and sent the nomination to the full Senate for a vote.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 16-2 to approve Ms. Rice's nomination.
Two Democrats opposed the nomination, including Senator Barbara Boxer of California and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, who unsuccessfully challenged President Bush for the White House last year. Senators Kerry and Boxer were the most vocal critics of administration policy on Iraq on the panel.
“The fact is, Dr. Rice is one of the principal architects, implementers and defenders of a series of administration policies and choices that in my judgment have not made our country as secure as it ought to be in the aftermath of 9/11 and have alienated much of the world,” said Senator Kerry.
The top Democrat on the committee, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, agrees that there are problems with the administration's Iraq policy, saying the United States has not had a clear post-war plan there. But he reluctantly voted for Ms. Rice, and expressed hope that as secretary of state she would be an independent voice on foreign policy and would not hesitate to be candid with the president about Iraq.
"I am going to vote for Dr. Rice, but I pray to the Lord, that she is at least telling the president, 'Hey boss, it is not going that well,'" he said.
Senator George Allen, a Virginia Republican, had no reservations about supporting Ms. Rice's nomination.
"When you look at the totality of her record, her experience, her principle, I respectfully ask my colleagues to confirm President Bush's choice to be secretary of state,” said Mr. Allen. “I think she will do our country proud."
The Senate panel voted after two days of confirmation hearings.
Democrats criticized the administration for not being candid with the American people about the rationale for war with Iraq, about the cost of continued deployment there and the absence of an exit strategy.
Ms. Rice would not say when U.S. troops would return home, saying such a timetable would depend on the Iraqis ability to fight terrorists on their own.
Although she defended the decision to oust Saddam Hussein from power, she did acknowledge that the administration made some mistakes in dealing with Iraq.
"I would be the first to say, we have made a lot of decisions, some of them good, some of them bad,” said Ms. Rice.
She said U.S. troops were not prepared for the tough task of post-war reconstruction when they went into Iraq, and she acknowledged that there have been problems with the training of Iraqi policemen. But she says the administration has taken steps to address these concerns.