Obama to pick Kerry for secy of state

FP

President Obama plans to nominate Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts as secretary of state, a senior administration official said. He would succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton and become the first member of Obama's second-term national security team.

The appointment of Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and his party's former presidential nominee in 2004, has been widely expected since last week, when Susan E. Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, asked Obama to withdraw her candidacy for the post.

Rice had come under weeks of attack from Republicans in Congress over her role in the aftermath of the deadly attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya. Kerry, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, oversaw a hearing on Benghazi on Thursday, at which the State Department came under renewed criticism for its failure to respond to requests for additional security in Libya.

The decision by Obama, expected to be announced late Friday, comes at a time when Clinton has been recovering from a concussion suffered earlier this month. Clinton, who has long said she would leave the post after Obama's first term, is not expected to attend the announcement.

An elder of the Democratic foreign-policy establishment, Kerry, 69, has long coveted the job of secretary of state. He built close ties to Obama, giving him the keynote speech assignment that helped begin his national political career at the Democratic convention in 2004 and becoming an early Senate supporter of Obama's presidential run.

Kerry has carried out several diplomatic missions for the Obama administration, helping to persuade President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan to agree to a runoff election in 2009. Early in the administration, he also tried to engage President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who has waged a brutal crackdown on his own people as he fights to cling to power.

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