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Obama names new defense chief and CIA head

President Barack Obama has nominated Republican Chuck Hagel as his next defense secretary and homeland security advisor John Brennan to head the CIA. Both nominations must now be approved by the US Senate.

President Obama on Monday named former Senator and Vietnam veteran Chuck Hagel (pictured left) as his nominee for defense secretary, and long-time Central Intelligence Agency officer John Brennan (right) to head the CIA.

Brennan, a 25-year veteran of the CIA, would succeed retired General David Petraeus, who resigned in November after admitting to an extramarital affair with his biographer.

Obama, who formally made the announced in the White House East Room, described Brennan as "one of our nation's most skilled and respected intelligence professionals."

The nominations now face a vote by the Senate for approval.

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Video: Obama picks new heads for Pentagon, CIA

Hagel, who has faced criticism for his views on Israel and Iran, may face a tough Senate confirmation.

Obama said that Hagel, a Republican who broke with his party by criticising the Iraq war, "understands that America stands strongest when we stand with allies and with friends."

"In the Senate, I came to admire his courage, his judgment, his willingness to speak his mind, even if it wasn't popular, even if it defied conventional wisdom," Obama said.

Hagel would replace Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who intends to leave his post after Obama begins his second term on January 20.

hc/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

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