Rice named Secretary of State in boost for hawks

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The Independent US

A new era of uncompromising and perhaps harder line American foreign policy dawned yesterday as President Bush nominated Condoleezza Rice as his new Secretary of State, and promoted her former deputy Stephen Hadley to be national security adviser at the White House.

A new era of uncompromising and perhaps harder line American foreign policy dawned yesterday as President Bush nominated Condoleezza Rice as his new Secretary of State, and promoted her former deputy Stephen Hadley to be national security adviser at the White House.

In Ms Rice "the world will see the strength, grace and decency of our country," Mr Bush said of his trusted friend and adviser who, if confirmed, will be America's 67th Secretary of State and the first black woman to hold the post.

In her reply, Ms Rice promised to carry out the foreign policy agenda of the President, in particular the prosecution of the war on terror and the search for a Middle East peace settlement, given new impetus here by the death of Yasser Arafat.

The initial signs are that while she may expect close questioning over her advice in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Ms Rice will be comfortably confirmed by the Senate where Republicans will hold an enlarged 55-45 majority in the new Congress. On Capitol Hill, the nominee could expect "vigorous questioning," Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon said, expressing the general view of his party, "but she deserves the benefit of the doubt".

Mr Bush also confirmed yesterday that Mr Hadley, another foreign policy hardliner, would become his national security adviser. Having worked well at the White House, the new State Department/NSC tandem is likely to operate smoothly, without the tensions that have often bedevilled the relationship in the past.

Ms Rice is the second member of the inner Bush team to win a cabinet job since the President's re-election a fortnight ago. Within days of that victory, he nominated Alberto Gonzales, the White House counsel, to take over from John Ashcroft as Attorney General.

As in that case, the net effect of the 50-year-old Ms Rice's switch to the State Department will be to be to reinforce the White House's control of policymaking. As an especially trusted personal as well as professional ally of the President, she will have less patience than Colin Powell with the sometimes doveish inclinations of her new department.

Her own policies too are harder line than those of her predecessor - as evidenced by her quoted comments in the immediate aftermath of the Iraq war about its three principal European opponents. US policy, she is said to have remarked, should be "to punish France, ignore Germany and forgive Russia". Last night, her freedom of action received a significant boost with the resignation of deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, the confidant and alter ego of General Powell.

Yesterday Ms Rice went out of her way to reassure her new staff, and to allay fears that a purge of moderates is in the offing. She spoke of her "utmost admiration and respect" for the "skill, professionalism and dedication" of the diplomatic service.

Mr Armitage's departure gives Ms Rice the chance to bring in an entirely new team, and particular attention will be paid to her deputy. Among the most widely mentioned of Mr Armitage's possible replacements is John Bolton, a notable hawk on Iran and North Korea, and vigorous critic of the UN.

The appointment of Mr Bolton, under-secretary for international security, would be the clearest pointer yet that US foreign policy will take a rightward tilt during the second term. It would also increase the risk of tensions between Washington, France and Germany.

Speculation grew yesterday that Tom Ridge, Secretary for Homeland Security, is also about to step down. That would leave only Donald Rumsfeld and his Pentagon deputy Paul Wolfowitz left from the pre-election national security team.

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