Condoleezza Rice pledged yesterday to work to mend ties with US allies frayed by the war in Iraq.
"The time for diplomacy is now," she told senators at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to replace Colin Powell as US secretary of state.
Rice insisted that the administration's actions in the aftermath of Sept. 11, including wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, were "difficult, and necessary and right."
She promised to work to strengthen ties with old and new allies. And, she said in prepared testimony, "If confirmed, I will work with members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, to build a strong bipartisan consensus behind America's foreign policy."
Rice, 50, who has been Bush's national security adviser in the White House for the last four years, called Sept. 11, 2001 "a defining moment for our nation and the world" in prepared remarks for her hearing.
"Under the vision and leadership of President Bush," Rice said, "our nation has risen to meet the challenges of our time: fighting tyranny and terror, and securing the blessings of freedom and prosperity for a new generation."
"Now is the time to build on these achievements to make the world safer, and to make the world more free," she said in the prepared opening statement. "We must use American diplomacy to help create a balance of power in the world that favors freedom."
Both Republican and Democratic senators said in advance of the hearing that they expected Rice to easily win enough votes for Senate confirmation. But they also said they expected tough questioning. The session offered a rare opportunity to ask Bush's most trusted national security adviser about her views and her role in combatting terrorism, planning for war in Iraq and the treatment of detainees.
For all her visibility as Bush's national security adviser and a front line saleswoman for the Iraq war, it is not clear where or whether her views diverge from his, said Kenneth Lieberthal, a foreign policy adviser to president Bill Clinton.
Rice has a sparkling resume full of firsts -- including being the first woman to serve as White House national security adviser.
The Senate session was another first. Her previous Washington jobs did not require Senate confirmation and the intense scrutiny that goes with it. If confirmed, Rice would be the first black woman, and only the second woman after Madeleine Albright, to be the US' top diplomat.
Rice is a classically trained pianist and a skilled figure skater. She was a college student at 15 and a university professor at 26. She was later provost of Stanford University, and has written several books.