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Obama to nominate Chuck Hagel for Defense secretary

FILE - JANUARY 6 2013:  It was reported thU.S. President Barack Obamis expected dominate Chuck Hagel Republican former U.S.

FILE - JANUARY 6, 2013: It was reported that U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to dominate Chuck Hagel, a Republican and former U.S. senator from Nebraska, to succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta January 6, 2013. OMAHA, NE- MARCH 12: U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) speaks at the University of Nebraska-Omaha March 12, 2007 in Omaha, Nebraska. Hagel announced that he will postpone making a decision on whether to seek the Republican nomination for president until later this year. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)

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Updated: February 8, 2013 6:23AM

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama intends to nominate former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) as Defense secretary on Monday, according to an administration official, with neither Illinois senator offering a ringing endorsement of the pick.

Hagel, a Vietnam veteran, faces a potential confirmation battle with senators from both parties expressing reservations about his record on Iran, Israel and gays.

Durbin told CNN’s Candy Crowley on “State of the Union” Sunday that Obama’s upcoming Hagel pick “tells me that he not only won the election but he wants to lead this country. You know, sitting back here and avoiding any confrontation and any controversy is going to make a weakened presidency. He needs to lead for the good of this nation, and we need to work together and find compromise and consensus in both political parties.

“Chuck Hagel was a Republican senator from Nebraska, a decorated veteran of the Vietnam war, a person who has a resume that includes service on the foreign relations committee as well as the intelligence committee. Yes, he is a serious candidate if the president chooses to name him,” Durbin said.

On Saturday, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) added his voice to a growing number of Hagel detractors, telling Foreign Policy’s “The Cable”: “I appreciate and respect Senator Hagel’s record of service to our country, especially as a decorated combat veteran.

“While he has not yet been nominated, I am concerned about his past record and statements, particularly with regard to Iran and the U.S.-Israel relationship. Should he be nominated to serve as Secretary of Defense, I will join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in a rigorous examination of these and other issues of concern,” Kirk said.

Kirk, who returned to the Senate on Thursday after an almost yearlong absence because of stroke, has been a leader in calling for tougher sanctions against Iran in order to prevent the nation hostile to Israel from gaining nuclear-weapons capability. Last month, legislation by Kirk along with now former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) sought additional sanctions against Iran.

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