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Panel Backs Hagel For U.S. Defense Chief

A sharply divided Senate panel has approved President Barack Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel to be the new U.S. defense secretary.

The vote by the Senate Armed Services Committee sets the stage for a vote on the nomination by the full Senate, perhaps as soon as later this week.

The February 12 committee vote was 14-11, with senators from the Republican Party -- of which Hagel is a member -- voting against him.

Members of Obama’s Democratic Party, who hold a Senate majority, were able to push through the president’s nomination.

Hagel, a former senator from Nebraska and Vietnam War veteran, has faced opposition from Republicans, who have raised questions about whether he is a strong enough supporter of America’s ally Israel and has tough enough views on how to counter Iran’s nuclear program.

Based on reports from Reuters and AP