President Barack Obama will nominate former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel to be his Defence Secretary, a congressional Democratic aide said yesterday.

The choice is likely to spark a confirmation battle in the Senate over whether the former Nebraska senator strongly supports key US ally Israel. Mr Hagel has also been criticised for comments he made questioning the effectiveness of sanctions on Iran for its nuclear programme.

This fight would come after the Obama administration backed down from a Senate confirmation battle over Susan Rice, the US Ambassador to the United Nations who was Mr Obama's first pick to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

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