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Bush Urges Senate to Confirm Gates as Defense Secretary

President Bush is urging the U.S. Senate to move quickly to confirm Robert Gates as his new defense secretary. As VOA's Paula Wolfson reports, the president met with Gates at the White House early Tuesday, shortly before the start of his confirmation hearings.

The president sent Gates to Capitol Hill with some words of encouragement.

"Bob Gates will be a fine secretary of defense," he said. "I appreciate the fact that he is getting a hearing today before the United States Senate and hope for speedy confirmation."

Gates is expected to face little opposition in the Senate. And his appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee is likely to focus more on the administration's Iraq policy than on his ability to handle the job.

In Gates, the president chose a man well known to lawmakers. In the early 1990s he served as head of the Central Intelligence Agency, and has considerable Washington experience.

If confirmed, Gates will replace Donald Rumsfeld, one of the key architects of the president's Iraq war strategy. Rumsfeld announced his intention to leave the post immediately after November congressional elections in which opposition to the war helped Democrats win control of the House and Senate.