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Obama nominates Kerry for secretary of state

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama nominated Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) as secretary of state.

"In an extraordinarily distinguished Senate career — and as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee — John has played a central role in every major foreign policy debate for nearly 30 years," Obama said Friday afternoon at a White House. "As we turn the page on a decade of war, he understands that we’ve got to harness all elements of American power and ensure that they’re working together — diplomatic and development, economic and political, military and intelligence — as well as the power of our values which inspire so many people around the world."

Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, chairs the Senate Foreign Relations committee and would likely be handily approved by that body.

Kerry’s nomination comes after Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, pulled herself out of contention after she came under Republican attack for her role in peddling a misleading version of what caused a fatal Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Kerry has a strong pro-Israel voting record, but has rarely initiated the pro-Israel legislation, letters and non-binding resolutions favored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

He also has been outspoken at times in criticizing Israeli policy, particularly during Israel’s blockade of goods into the Gaza Strip.

Some conservatives are wary of his emphasis on outreach to rogue states; until Syria collapsed into a bloody uprising against the repressive Assad regime, he favored a degree of engagement with that country.

Media reports said that Obama would not for now announce defense secretary and CIA chief picks.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, the secretary of state, is ill and has said she would like to leave the job as soon as possible.

Leon Panetta, the defense secretary, also wants to leave although he has not shown the same urgency as Clinton.

One of Obama’s picks to replace Panetta, Chuck Hagel, is under fire by some pro-Israel groups for past remarks critical of the pro-Israel lobby and because he has favored a degree of engagement with Iran and terrorist groups.

The CIA top spot has been open since David Petraeus resigned in a sex scandal earlier this year.

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