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    Hagel confirmed as US defense secretary

    KABUL (PAN): Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam War veteran, was confirmed as US secretary of defense late on Tuesday when the Senate finally ended a Republican filibuster and voted on his nomination after a 10-day rancourous debate.

    Following the 58-41, the 66-year-old is set t replace Leon Panetta. The ex-Republican senator was confirmed after he fielded a volley of tough questions about his past statements on Iran's nuclear ambitions and US-Israel ties

    Scheduled to take oath and address Pentagon staff later on Wednesday, Hagel’s appointment was surprisingly backed by four Republicans. But other Republicans suspected his credentials as defense department chief.

    President Barack Obama hailed the confirmation of his nominee, calling Hagel a defense secretary that the US needed and the leader that American troops deserved.

    In his reaction, the president said: "I will be counting on Chuck's judgment and counsel as we end the war in Afghanistan, bring our troops home, stay ready to meet the threats of our time and keep our military the finest fighting force in the world."

    Earlier, over a dozen Republicans joined Democrats in cutting off a bitter debate on his nomination for the job. Republicans had insisted they needed more time to evaluate the record of their former colleague from Nebraska.

    Panetta’s successor, meanwhile, said he felt honoured by the confirmation, signaling his willingness to put aside the bitter political battle. "I will work closely with Congress to ensure that we maintain the strongest military in the world," he said.

    PAN Monitor/mud