U.S. Senate leaders are vowing expedited proceedings to confirm John Negroponte, the current U.S. ambassador to Iraq, as national intelligence director.  Initial reaction from Senators has been positive.


The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, welcomed Ambassador Negroponte's nomination.


"John Negroponte has an outstanding record as a career diplomat.  He will need those skills in working with and coordinating our 15 intelligence agencies and the

Pentagon," said Mr. Roberts.


Senator Roberts says he will hold confirmation hearings on the nomination as soon as Ambassador Negroponte's duties in Iraq are completed.


Mr. Roberts says he looks forward to working with Ambassador Negroponte after he is confirmed on a range of intelligence matters, from reducing the threat of terrorism to improving the collection and sharing of intelligence.


Another Republican, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, says he has enormous confidence in Mr. Negroponte, who has also served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.


"He understands the world, he understands security issues as well as diplomatic issues.  He is smart, he is tough," said Mr. Hagel.


Democrats, too, expressed support for the nominee, including Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island.


"He is a distinguished foreign service officer," said Mr. Reed.  "He has been in many different environments throughout his career.  My initial reaction is that this is a consummate professional, who, if confirmed, will have extraordinary responsibilities."


The national intelligence director was created by Congress on the recommendation of the bipartisan commission that investigated the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. 


Once in his new post, Ambassador Negroponte will coordinate the work of all 15 U.S. intelligence agencies.