The U.S. Senate has voted to confirm Chuck Hagel’s nomination to become the country's new defense secretary.
But the 58-41 vote was the closest vote ever to approve a U.S. defense secretary, coming after Senate Republicans nearly two weeks ago initiated the first-ever filibuster to block a top defense appointment.
President Barack Obama said he would "be counting" on Hagel as the U.S. ends the 11-year war in Afghanistan and brings its troops home. Obama said in a statement Hagel is "the defense secretary our nation needs and the leader our troops deserve."
The February 26 confirmation came 12 days after Republicans delayed a vote, questioning his support for Israel and suggesting he was too willing to compromise with Iran.
Hagel succeeds Leon Panetta, who is stepping down after four years in senior posts for President Barack Obama, first as CIA director and then Pentagon chief.
Hagel is a former Republican senator from Nebraska and a decorated Vietnam veteran.
He angered many Republicans when he criticized President George W. Bush's leadership in the Iraq war, while others questioned whether he was a sufficiently staunch supporter of Israel or hawkish enough on Iran.
Based on reporting by AP and Reuters