Washington: US President Barack Obama on Sunday said that he has taken no decision on nominating his next defence secretary, but went on to praise former Senator Chuck Hagel, who is believed to be the top contender for the post.
"I haven`t made a decision about who to nominate. And my number one criteria will be who`s going to do the best job in helping to secure America," Obama said in response to a question.
The US President however praised Hagel.
"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. This is somebody who`s currently serving on my intelligence advisory board and doing an outstanding job," he said.
"So I haven`t made a decision on this," Obama said.
When asked about Hagel`s comment on gays in the past, Obama said the former Senator has already apologised.
"With respect to the particular comment that you quoted, he apologised for it. And I think it`s a testimony to what has been a positive change over the last decade in terms of people`s attitudes about gays and lesbians serving our country," he said.
"That`s something that I`m very proud to have led. And I think that anybody who serves in my administration understands my attitude and position on those issues," Obama said.
Obama said the criticism of Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the UN, was politically motivated.
"I think I was very clear throughout that Susan has been an outstanding UN ambassador for the United States. She appeared on a number of television shows reporting what she and we understood to be the best information at the time," he said.
"This was a politically motivated attack on her. I mean of all the people in my national security team she probably had the least to do with anything that happened in Benghazi," he said.
"Why she was targeted individually for the kind of attacks that she was subjected to is was puzzling to me. I was very clear in the days after those attacks that they weren`t acceptable," Obama said.
"So the good thing is that I think she will continue to serve at the UN and do an outstanding job. And I think that most Americans recognise that these were largely politically motivated attacks as opposed to being justified," he said.