Chuck Hagel likely pick for defense secretary

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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama appeared poised Friday to pick former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel as the next defense secretary, and the announcement may come early next week.

Sources on Capitol Hill and in the national security community said all signs were pointing to the Nebraskan as Obama's choice to replace current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

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The choice would likely set up a confirmation battle in the Senate over whether Hagel strongly supports key U.S. ally Israel. Gay rights groups have also complained about some of his past remarks, seen as disparaging to them.

However, if Obama were to back down from picking Hagel, it would be the second embarrassment, after his preferred candidate for secretary of state, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, withdrew from consideration in the face of determined opposition. -- Reuters

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