USA

Clinton appointment near approval by Senate

Hillary Clinton's appointment as US Secretary of State has been approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the last hurdle before formal confirmation which will come with President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration.

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AFP - Hillary Clinton's appointment as secretary of state cleared a key hurdle Thursday with the Senate foreign relations committee voting for her nomination.

Formal confirmation must await president-elect Barack Obama's inauguration next Tuesday, but the committee held a procedural vote to pass Clinton's nomination for consideration by the full Senate.

Sixteen committee members voted for Clinton and one against. Her nomination is expected to win an easy passage through the Senate as a whole.

Committee chairman John Kerry said the former first lady "did an outstanding job" in her testimony before its members Tuesday, when she promised a "smart" blend of US military and diplomatic power projection under Obama.

Kerry noted concerns raised by the committee's senior Republican, Richard Lugar, about potential conflicts of interests between Clinton's new job and the charitable foundation of her husband, former president Bill Clinton.

"As we go forward, I'm confident that Senator Clinton is going to give those full consideration," said Kerry, the Democrats' 2004 presidential nominee who has replaced vice president-elect Joseph Biden as the committee's chairman.

Bill Clinton's non-profit foundation, which works on HIV/AIDS, climate change and poverty, has accepted more than 131 million dollars from foreign governments, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Norway.

Lugar joined the overwhelming majority of the committee in voting for Hillary Clinton's nomination, after her testimony had received a warm embrace from its members. Republican David Vitter was the sole voice of dissent.

"I believe American leadership has been wanting, but is still wanted," Clinton, who narrowly lost her campaign against Obama for the Democratic nomination last year, said Tuesday.

"We must use what has been called 'smart power,' the full range of tools at our disposal," she said, advocating a mix of diplomatic, economic, military, political legal and cultural strategies.

Clinton said America must never give up on Middle East peace and as Israel's war on Hamas in Gaza rages, ruled out talks with the Islamist militant group but expressed disquiet over civilian casualties on both sides.

She also previewed an "aggressive" bid to halt North Korea's alleged nuclear proliferation activities, and promised the United States would belatedly throw itself into the fight against global climate change.

Clinton, who is leaving her job as senator for New York, was to give a farewell address to the Senate later Thursday.

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