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Senate panel OKs Samantha Power as U.N. ambassador

Samantha Power, a former White House aide and Harvard professor, testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing
Samantha Power, a former White House aide and Harvard professor, testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved Samantha Power, President Barack Obama's nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, clearing the way for a vote in the full 100-member Senate.

All but two of the panel's 18 members voted in favor of Power, who was expected to win confirmation easily by the full Senate.

Venezuela said last week it was ending efforts to improve ties with the United States after Power vowed during her confirmation hearing to oppose what she called a crackdown on civil society in the "repressive" OPEC nation.

In an echo of the many bust-ups between the two countries during the late Hugo Chavez's 14-year rule, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro demanded an apology and said the United States had no moral right to criticize his government.

On Tuesday, he said he would be willing to resume dialogue if the United States "rectified its imperialist attitude toward Latin America and the Caribbean and its attitude of permanent aggression toward Venezuela."

The issue did not come up during Tuesday's committee meeting.

Power had been criticized by some conservatives for seeming to suggest, in a 2002 interview, that the U.S. Army might be needed to police the Middle East conflict if either Israel or the Palestinians move toward genocide. Power, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her study of U.S. failures to prevent genocide, has disassociated herself many times from that comment.

There was some pointed questioning about past statements during her confirmation hearings, but Power was praised by many Republicans, as well as by Obama's fellow Democrats. Several senators said they looked forward to her U.N. tenure.

The committee also overwhelmingly approved Victoria Nuland, a U.S. foreign policy official in both Democratic and Republican administrations, as an assistant secretary of state.

Nuland had faced questions over her role in State Department communications after the September 11, 2012, attack on American diplomatic outposts in Benghazi, Libya, in which the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed.

The Benghazi incident became a focus of Republican criticism of Obama administration foreign policy.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, additional reporting by Brian Ellsworth in Caracas; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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