2 Dec 2008

Obama names Clinton, Gates to foreign policy team

3:28 pm on 2 December 2008

United States President-elect Barack Obama named former rival Hillary Clinton as secretary of state on Monday and said Robert Gates would remain defence secretary.

Mrs Clinton and Mr Gates, who have been at odds with Obama in the past over foreign policy and defense issues, will implement Barack Obama's vision of rebuilding the US image abroad and oversee two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I assembled this team because I am a strong believer in strong personalities and strong opinions. I think that's how the best decisions are made," Obama said at a news conference.

Mrs Clinton, standing with Obama on the stage in Chicago, said the United States must rely on its friends to help confront threats like global warming and terrorism - an implicit rebuke to the go-it-alone approach of President Bush.

"While we are determined to defend our freedoms and liberties at all costs, we also reach out to the world again, seeking common cause and higher ground," she said.

President-elect Obama named retired Marine Gen. James Jones as national security adviser and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as head of homeland security.

He also named former Justice Department official Eric Holder as attorney general and Susan Rice, an Obama foreign policy adviser, as UN ambassador.

The nominees are expected to win quick confirmation by the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Gates offers continuity

Robert Gates has said he wanted to leave at the end of the Bush administration and it is unclear how long he plans to serve in Obama's administration.

While he avoided direct criticism of Obama during the election campaign, he has advocated policies that have been at odds with Obama on issues like the Iraq war.

Mr Obama wants to withdraw US troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office, but Mr Gates has argued against setting timetables and a quick pullout, saying it could jeopardize the security gains that have been made over the past year.

However, he has been praised by Democrats and Republicans since taking over the Pentagon from Donald Rumsfeld in 2006 and he would provide continuity while the United States fights wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.