US president Barack Obama is expected to nominate Senate foreign relations committee chairman John Kerry to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, sources said over the weekend.
Kerry, the Democratic nominee for president in 2004 and a stalwart Obama supporter, had been widely tipped as the likely candidate for top US diplomat following the withdrawal last week of US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice.
The announcement of Kerry’s nomination could come as early as mid-week, according to one source, although it could also be delayed to avoid the impression of an overly hasty return to politics following the massacre at a Connecticut school on Friday.
The source said the White House is leaning towards unveiling Kerry’s nomination as part of a high-profile package that would include his pick for defence secretary.
Former Republican senator Chuck Hagel is the top candidate to take over the Pentagon and the White House’s vetting process for him is virtually complete, the source said.
Obama met Hagel at the White House on Dec 3 to discuss the post.
While Obama is said to be generally comfortable with Hagel’s foreign policy views, there is concern within the administration that his record of occasional criticism of Israel could create problems in the confirmation process.
Clinton, consistently rated as the most popular of Obama’s cabinet, intends to step down towards the end of January when Obama is sworn in for a second term.
There is speculation that Clinton will seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2016.
Meanwhile, the state department said on Saturday Clinton was recovering from a concussion suffered after she became dehydrated with a stomach virus.
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