Senate approves Pompeo as US Secretary of State

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Outgoing CIA Director Mike Pompeo is expected to clear his last hurdle to become secretary of state when the Senate votes midday Thursday to confirm him.

Pompeo narrowly avoided a historic rebuke by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Trump applauded Pompeo's confirmation, hailing him as a "patriot" with "immense talent, energy and intellect" who will be an asset for the United States.

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The approval came in time for Pompeo to lead the USA delegation to NATO foreign minister talks in Brussels this weekend and to arrange a summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in the coming months. State Department staffers, demoralised after a tumultuous first year of President Donald Trump's administration, gave a round of applause to Pompeo, who responded as he boarded the aircraft with a casual, "Hi, I'm Mike".

Six Democrats and one Independent voted to confirm Pompeo: Heitkamp, Donnelly, Manchin, McCaskill, Jones, Nelson, and King (I). He's expected to have an easier time in the full Senate, though the tally will still likely be close. John McCain who is still in Arizona battling brain cancer and was not present for the vote.

Barely 12 hours after being sworn in, Pompeo went straight to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation headquarters yesterday to hammer home one of his boss's oldest themes - demanding that other members pay their way - as the allies sought a common front against Russian Federation.

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But ultimately, the 54-year-old West Point graduate and former congressman beat back critics, easily winning Senate confirmation in a 57-42 vote.

Yet his opponents warned that his hawkish foreign policy views and negative comments about gay marriage and Muslims made him ill-equipped to serve as a diplomat or to represent the U.S. on the world stage.

Trump says, "Having a patriot of Mike's huge talent, energy, and intellect leading the Department of State will be an incredible asset for our country at this critical time in history".

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Pompeo takes the helm ahead of Trump's expected decision about whether to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal by a May 12 deadline and reimpose sanctions on Tehran.