WASHINGTON (AP) Robert Gates won approval by a Senate panel Tuesday to be the next defense secretary after a daylong hearing in which he said the U.S. is not winning the war in Iraq and there could be a ``regional conflagration'' if the country is not stabilized.
At a Senate confirmation hearing that was long on praise for Gates and short on criticism, the man President Bush picked to replace Donald Rumsfeld said he is open to new ideas about correcting the U.S. course in Iraq. He said the war would be his highest priority if confirmed as expected.
In a closed-door meeting following five hours of open testimony, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted 21-0 to recommend approval of Gates' nomination, said panel chairman John Warner, R-Va. It appeared likely that Gates would win Senate confirmation by the end of the week.