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Cohen Leads Defense Secretary Search


WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Nov. 15) -- President Bill Clinton's search for a new secretary of defense has focused on retiring Sen. William S. Cohen (R-Maine), a frequent critic of the administration's foreign policy.

Cohen has strongly criticized the Clinton Administration's Bosnia and Iraq policies. But the president, who has promised to put at least one Republican in his cabinet, is reportedly impressed by the senator's credentials and willing to put aside his attacks.

When asked Sunday if he was willing to serve, Cohen said, "I think anyone who was asked to be secretary of state would be hard-pressed to reject it... I think the same thing would be true with respect to secretary of defense."

Previously, CIA Director John Deutch was considered the leading contender to replace Defense Secretary William Perry, who has resigned. Other candidates include Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), Deputy Defense Secretary John White and Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick. Aides caution, though, that no choice is likely to be made until next month.

Clinton had hoped to name appointees for both the Defense and State departments before leaving Friday on an extended trip, but both searches were delayed this week.

Earlier this week former Sen. George Mitchell had emerged as the frontrunner for the secretary of state slot but sources now say Richard Holbrooke's candidacy is gaining momentum. Two others also remain on the president's short list: U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright and Nunn. The White House appears no longer to be pursuing one-time favorite, retired General Colin Powell.

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