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Obama's Defense pick tries to convince Congressional skeptics


08:42, February 01, 2013

Former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) speaks in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing to become the next secretary of defense in Washington D.C., the United States, Jan. 31, 2013. (Xinhua/Fang Zhe)

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama's nominee for U.S. secretary of defense, faced his Congressional critics on Thursday at the Senate confirmation hearing, trying to gain their support.

"We will not hesitate to use the full force of the United States military in defense of our security," the former Republican senator said in an opening statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"We must also be smart, and more importantly wise, in how we employ all of our nation's great power," he added.

Hagel, responding to criticism that he will appease Iran and be inhospitable to Israel's security concerns once he takes over the Pentagon, said that he backed the U.S. policy of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and that all options including the use of military force are on the table.

"My policy is one of prevention, and not one of containment, and the president has made clear that is the policy of our government," said Hagel. He also vowed to ensure Israel's qualitative military edge if he is confirmed as the next Pentagon chief.

Hagel is facing a tough crowd at the hearing. Some Republicans, including four members of the Armed Services Committee, have said that they oppose the nomination. Jim Inhofe, the GOP's ranking member in the committee, complained in his opening remarks at the hearing that Hagel had not provided the committee with all of his speeches over the past five years as requested.

Inhofe also described Hagel's record as "deeply troubling and out of mainstream views."

Hagel defended his record in his opening statement, saying that "no one individual vote, quote or statement defines me, my beliefs, or my record."

"My overall world view has never changed: that America has and must maintain the strongest military in the world; that we must lead the international community to confront threats and challenges together; and that we must use all tools of American power to protect our citizens and our interests," he stressed.

Hagel, a 66-year-old Vietnam War veteran, could be an important member in Obama's new national security team if confirmed to succeed Leon Panetta, the current Pentagon chief. He is believed to share many of Obama's views on the military and American power, and tend to support Obama's push to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan at a faster pace.

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