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Senate backs Gates for Pentagon

The Senate votes overwhelmingly to confirm Gates as defence secretary.

india Updated: Dec 09, 2006 14:07 IST

The Senate voted overwhelmingly to confirm Robert Gates as defence secretary, with Democrats and Republicans portraying him as the man who will help overhaul President George W Bush's Iraq policies.

The 95-2 vote was a victory for Bush, who named Gates on November 8 to replace Donald H Rumsfeld at the Pentagon a day after voters gave Democrats control of Congress for next year.

Even so, much of Gates' support stemmed from his pledges to consider new options in Iraq. The vote coincided with the release of an independent study lambasting Bush's approach to the war, increasing pressure on the White House to change course.

"I am confident that his leadership and capabilities will help our country meet its current military challenges and prepare for emerging threats of the 21st century," Bush said in a statement after the Senate vote on Wednesday.

He said Gates had shown during his confirmation hearing this week before the Senate Armed Services Committee that he is "an experienced, qualified and thoughtful man who is well respected by members of both parties and is committed to winning the war on terror."

Republican Senators Rick Santorum and Jim Bunning voted against Gates.

The White House said Gates would be sworn in December 18. Explaining the delay, spokeswoman Dana Perino said Gates had commitments he had to fulfill at Texas A&M University, where he is the president. Bush congratulated Gates.