8 Jan 2013

Former Senator named as next US Defence Secretary

12:44 pm on 8 January 2013

President Barack Obama has nominated a former Republican Senator to be the new US Defence Secretary.

Chuck Hagel, 66, was named on Monday to replace Leon Panetta at the Pentagon, but other Republicans have questioned the selection of the former senator from Nebraska because of his views towards Israel.

Mr Hagel made critical remarks against the Israel lobby in the US capital, in a 2008 book by a former state department official.

"The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here," Mr Hagel was quoted as saying. "I'm a United States senator. I'm not an Israeli senator."

The ABC reports Mr Hagel, a decorated Vietnam war veteran, voted against the Iraq war.

President Obama said he was the ideal candidate for the job.

"Chuck Hagel is the leader that our troops deserve. He is an American patriot," Mr Obama said.

"To this day, Chuck bears the scars and shrapnel from the battles he fought in our name."

In an interview with his hometown newspaper on Monday, the Lincoln Journal Star, Mr Hagel said his record showed "unequivocal, total support" for Israel and that his critics had "completely distorted" his record.

Mr Obama has also chosen his counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan, 67, to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency. He would replace General David Petraeus, who resigned in November.

Both appointments must be confirmed by the Senate.

Mr Hagel is seen as facing a rougher ride than Mr Brennan and could be targeted for his positions on Israel and Iran.