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US Republican senators John McCain (L) and Lindsey Graham

US Republican senators John McCain (L) and Lindsey Graham

Two US Republican senators, who were most critical of Chuck Hagel’s nomination as the US secretary of defense, say they will no longer “hold up” the nomination. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said on Sunday that they would not continue to try to block the nomination of Hagel, who is an outspoken critic of the Israeli regime. “I don’t believe that we should hold up his nomination any further because I think it’s a reasonable amount of time to have questions answered,” McCain said. A majority of Republican senators, including Graham and McCain, backed a filibuster on February 14, when the nomination came up to vote. The ballot was postponed to February 26. Denis McDonough, US President Barack Obama’s White House Chief of Staff, said he had “grave concerns” that the US security was at stake, with the delaying tactics by the Republicans in confirming a Pentagon chief. Hagel is expected to win confirmation at the end of the month since the Democrats hold control of the Senate. Senator Graham claimed that Hagel had told him in a recent letter that he (Hagel) “disavows” a statement quoted from him in a 2008 interview that “I’m not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States senator.” The statement had provoked the wrath of the pro-Israeli lobby in the US, causing difficulties in Hagel’s confirmation process. Hagel, however, has not confirmed Graham’s remarks regarding the letter and its purported content. CAH/HSN/HJL