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U.S. Senate Confirms Petraeus For Middle East Command

General David Petraeus

General David Petraeus

WASHINGTON -- The Senate has overwhelmingly confirmed U.S. Army General David Petraeus as commander of the military headquarters responsible for U.S. operations across the Middle East, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Senate confirmed him by a vote of 95-2.

It also confirmed, 96-1, the nomination of Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno as top commander in Iraq, replacing Petraeus. Odierno, who served as Petraeus's deputy in the war, will be promoted to full general.

Central Command is considered the toughest regional military command to lead.

Petraeus and Odierno together implemented a new military strategy credited with helping drive down violence in Iraq.

As head of Central Command, Petraeus will oversee military operations in a region that includes Iran, Pakistan, and 25 other countries, as well as strategically and economically significant international waters, including the Persian Gulf.

"Working together they have made dramatic security gains in Iraq and hopefully they will be able to build upon that success to create a more stable and secure Middle East," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said.

Petraeus will take his new post this year, likely after September, defense officials said.

He will take charge at a time of heightened tensions with Iran, which test-fired missiles this week that Tehran says can reach Israel and U.S. assets in the region.

Petraeus also faces what U.S. officials say is a renewed threat from Al-Qaeda in Pakistan and rising violence in Afghanistan.

"We all share a concern about the worsening situation in Afghanistan," said Senator John Warner, a Virginia Republican, calling that war a top priority for Petraeus. "We're fortunate that he is imminently qualified, having studied the culture of the region, having understood the complexity, the geopolitical situation with regard to Pakistan and Iran. He is just imminently qualified to step in and be the commander of those forces in that region."

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, when he picked Petraeus to lead that command in April, called the general the most qualified officer to manage counterinsurgency operations in both wars and grapple with threats from Islamist extremism throughout the region.

Petraeus's nomination followed the resignation of Admiral William Fallon after a reported break with the Bush administration over Iran policy.