The Senate has begun debate on the nomination of Condoleezza Rice to be Secretary of State.  Opposition Democrats are using the occasion to criticize the administration's Iraq policy, 

Senator Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, opened the debate with a ringing endorsement of Ms. Rice, who served as President Bush's National Security Adviser in his first term.

"American credibility in the world, progress in the war on terrorism, and our relationships with our allies will be greatly affected by the Secretary of State's actions, and the effectiveness of the State Department in the coming years,? said Mr. Lugar.  ?Dr. Rice is highly qualified to meet those challenges."

But some Democrats argued Ms. Rice misled the nation in making the case for war in Iraq before the invasion.  Ms. Rice and others in the administration cited weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as the key justification for war, though none has ever been found.

Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, a long-time critic of the administration's Iraq policy, says he will vote against Ms. Rice's nomination.

"Dr. Rice was a key member of the National Security team that developed and justified the rationale for war, and it has been a catastrophic failure, a continuing quagmire,? said Mr. Kennedy.  ?In these circumstances, she should not be promoted to Secretary of State."

Another Democrat who voted in favor of the war agrees.  Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana says he also will oppose Ms. Rice's nomination because, as he put it, he cannot support the promotion of someone who promises only more of the same failed policy in Iraq.

"Those in charge must be held accountable for mistakes,? he added.  ?We must learn from them, correct them so that we may succeed in Iraq.  Mr. [Senate] President, if the President of the United States will not do this, then those in the Senate must."

But other Democrats see it differently.  Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, another supporter of the war with Iraq, will vote to confirm Ms. Rice.

"One of the great strengths that Condoleezza Rice will bring to the office of Secretary of State is that the world knows she has the President's trust and confidence," said Mr. Lieberman.

Senator Lieberman spoke for most lawmakers.   Despite opposition from some Democrats, the Senate is expected to easily confirm Ms. Rice to succeed Secretary of State Colin Powell in a vote scheduled for Wednesday.