Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama's pick to
serve as the next secretary of defence, defended his record before a
Senate committee Thursday as he sought to allay concerns of the
US senators who must confirm his nomination.
Hagel, a Republican and former senator from Nebraska, has drawn stiff opposition from some members of the Senate who have said he is not tough enough on Iran and has not spoken strongly enough for Israel.
"I'm on the record on many issues, but no one individual vote, no one individual quote, no one individual statement defines me, my beliefs, or my record," Hagel told the Senate Armed Service Committee as the top Republican on the committee voiced strong opposition to his nomination.
Hagel stressed his agreement with Obama that "all options" were on the table to deal with Iran's nuclear programme and that he would be a steadfast ally to Israel. He also said he was committed to maintaining the US nuclear arsenal, amid questions about past remarks on denuclearization.
Senator Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the committee, said he was strongly opposed to Hagel serving as secretary of defence.
"His record demonstrates what I view as a lack of steadfast opposition to policies that diminish US power and influence throughout the world, as well as a recent trend of policy reversals that seem based on political expediency rather than on core beliefs," he said.
If confirmed by the Senate, Hagel would replace Defence Secretary Leon Panetta.
Among the Republicans who have questioned Hagel's nomination are US Senator John McCain, who said he had serious concerns about positions Hagel has taken on a range of national security issues. Other conservatives questioned Hagel's commitment to Israel, citing his reference to advocates of Israel in the US as the "Jewish lobby."
Some Democrats have also raised concerns, but none have said they will oppose Hagel's confirmation. Just one Republican has so far expressed his support.
Hagel described the greatest challenge for the incoming defence secretary as winding down the war in Afghanistan and defining the US role there after the scheduled 2014 withdrawal of combat troops.
Hagel cited his own service in the Vietnam War as one of his qualifications.
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