CHICAGO (Reuters) - President-elect Barack Obama will unveil his national security team on Monday with former rival Hillary Clinton picked as secretary of state and Robert Gates staying on as defense secretary.
The pair, who have been at odds with Obama in the past over foreign policy and defense issues, will have the task of implementing Obama's vision for "renewing" America's leadership in world affairs, rebuilding its image abroad, and overseeing two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Monday's announcement has been given added emphasis by last week's rampage in India's financial capital of Mumbai by gunmen who killed nearly 200 people, including at least five U.S. citizens, ratcheting up tensions with nuclear-armed rival Pakistan, which New Delhi said was linked to the attacks.
With polls showing most Americans more concerned about the dire state of the economy than national security, Obama spent much of last week naming leading members of his economic team and presenting himself as a strong chief executive officer.
But the Mumbai attacks were a timely reminder that Obama will not have the luxury of focusing only on fixing the economy as he succeeds outgoing President George W. Bush. His vice president-elect, Joe Biden, warned during the presidential campaign that Obama could be tested by a national security crisis within six months of taking office on January 20.
U.S. authorities warned last week of a possible al Qaeda threat to transit systems in and around New York City, although they added there was no specific information to confirm the plot had developed "beyond aspirational planning."
A Democratic official confirmed Obama had chosen Gates and Clinton, as well as retired Marine Gen. James Jones as national security adviser. They will be named at a Chicago news conference at 10:40 a.m. EST.
Other positions were likely to be announced, possibly including Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as head of homeland security, former Justice Department official Eric Holder as attorney general and Susan Rice, an Obama foreign policy adviser, as U.N. ambassador.
GATES OFFERS CONTINUITY
U.S. media say Defense Secretary Gates, who had previously said he wanted to leave at the end of the Bush administration, has agreed to stay on, although it is not clear for how long.
While Gates avoided direct criticism of Obama during the election campaign, he has advocated policies that have been at odds with Obama on issues such as the Iraq war.
Obama wants to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office, but Gates has argued against setting timetables and a quick pullout, saying it could jeopardize the security gains that have been made over the past year.
However, Gates, praised by Democrats and Republicans since taking over the Pentagon from Donald Rumsfeld in 2006, would provide continuity at the Pentagon while the United States fights two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama clashed with Clinton during a bitter campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. Clinton famously ran an advertisement depicting a 3 a.m. crisis call at the White House to argue that Obama, a first-term Illinois senator, was not ready to be commander-in-chief.
Clinton has also tended to talk tougher, once saying she would "obliterate" Iran if it attacked Israel. She criticized as "naive" Obama's call for direct presidential-level engagement with foes like Iran and North Korea.
But Clinton broadly sides with Obama in supporting a greater emphasis on engagement in U.S. foreign policy.
The New York Times reported on Saturday that Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, had agreed to make public the names of more than 200,000 donors to his foundation as part of a deal with Obama to clear the way for his wife to become secretary of state.
The newspaper said Clinton had decided to publish his contributor lists to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest with his wife's duties as secretary of state.
A member of Obama's transition team confirmed to Reuters the conditions of the agreement as reported by the Times.
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