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Tillerson 'to reverse US policy blunders'

AAP logoAAP 14/12/2016

US president-elect Donald Trump has told a rally in Wisconsin his pick for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, will reverse "years of foreign policy blunders and disasters".

Trump also said the 64-year-old Republican was "a great diplomat" and a "fierce advocate" for US interests around the world.

Without mentioning Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump said that Tillerson was "friendly with many of the leaders in the world that we can't get along with".

Trump has been attending rallies across the country as part of a thank you tour of states he carried in the presidential election last month.

His picking the Texas-born oilman for the job of top US diplomat sets up a potential showdown in the Senate, which must confirm the choice, amid concerns from members of both political parties about Tillerson's ties to Russia.

Earlier, Trump praised Tillerson as one of the world's most successful businessmen with a career that is "the embodiment of the American dream".

"Through hard work, dedication and smart deal-making, Rex rose through the ranks to become CEO of ExxonMobil, one of the world's largest and most respected companies," Trump said.

As secretary of state, Tillerson said he would focus on strengthening alliances, while pursuing "shared national interests and enhancing the strength, security and sovereignty of the United States".

The president-elect's choice has already attracted criticism due to Tillerson's close ties with Moscow, where he represented Exxon's interests in the 1990s. In 2013 he was awarded the Order of Friendship by the Russian government.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a vocal critic of Trump and a national security hawk, said he looked forward to discussing with Tillerson his views on the US-Russian relationship and his past opposition to sanctions on Moscow.

Graham said there were "many questions which must be answered" by Tillerson.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee must approve the nominee before the full chamber votes on the choice.

Senator Marco Rubio, who serves on the committee, said over the weekend that "being a 'friend of Vladimir' is not an attribute I am hoping for from a secretary of state," referring to Putin.

However several prominent Republicans voiced support for the pick.

The Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, praised Tillerson as "a very impressive individual" with "an extraordinary working knowledge of the world".

Corker said his committee would hold hearings in early January on the nomination.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would support Tillerson, noting that Tillerson was in a position to conduct a "full review of our national security policy" and would "face each problem head on with American interests and security as his top priority".

Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice called Tillerson an "excellent choice," citing his broad international experience and understanding of the global economy.

The nomination fits with Trump's inclination not to embrace the traditional US foreign policy stances pushed by mainly hawkish members of both the Republican and Democratic parties.

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