Obama hails US budget deal

Barack Obama has hailed a deal to avoid a "fiscal cliff" of stark tax hikes and spending cuts. The US House of Representatives backed the bill by 257 votes to 167.

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Obama supports Hagel but 'has not decided on defence nomination'

President Barack Obama has offered strong support for former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as the potential next US defence secretary but said that he had not yet decided on a nominee for the Pentagon post.

Hagel is considered a leading candidate to replace outgoing Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta, but the former Nebraska lawmaker has come under criticism for his record on Israel and for a comment that being gay was an inhibiting factor for being an ambassador.

Obama told NBC's "Meet the Press:"

I've served with Chuck Hagel. I know him. He is a patriot. He is somebody who has done extraordinary work both in the United States Senate, somebody who served this country with valour in Vietnam.

Any nomination for defence secretary must be approved by the Senate where some lawmakers have voiced criticism about their former colleague.

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