US President Barack Obama has nominated Senator John Kerry as his next secretary of state. The president called him the "perfect choice" to guide American diplomacy in the coming years.
Obama made his announcement Friday at a White House press conference. If confirmed, the Massachusetts senator would succeed current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
"As we turn the page on a decade of war, he understands that we have to harness all elements of American power," said Obama at the press conference.
Obama added that Kerry's entire life "has prepared him for this role," saying his political career and service has established him as a respected American voice around the world.
Kerry, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is a decorated Vietnam veteran who was critical of the war effort after returning home to the US.
Kerry was considered the favorite for the post after the US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, withdrew her name from consideration last week amid the fallout stemming from a deadly attack on the US consulate in Bengazi, Libya, earlier this year.
The 69-year-old Kerry was the Democratic Party's candidate in the 2004 presidential election, which he lost to George W. Bush.
Kerry played an important role in the emergence of Barack Obama as a political figure, notably giving him the keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention, an event that launched the then relatively unknown Illinois state senator onto the national stage.
Clinton has said she wishes to step down once Obama begins his second term as President on January 20.
Kerry must be confirmed by the Senate before taking office, a process Obama said is expected to go quickly.
After the announcement, Obama left Washington with his family for a Christmas break in Hawaii. In a statement, Obama suggested he would be back in Washington next week, expressing optimism a deal over the country's looming crisis, the so called 'fiscal cliff,' could be reached before the new year.
If no agreement can be made in the House of Representatives before January 1, all taxpayers face a rise and automatic cuts in federal spending, from welfare to defense, will kick in.
dr/pfd (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)