URGENT ¥¥¥ Hagel defense nomination passes key US Senate panel

A Senate committee on Tuesday approved Chuck Hagel to be the next US secretary of defense, a key step in a process that could see the controversial nominee confirmed as early as this week.

The Senate Armed Services Committee voted 14 to 11 with one non-vote to approve Hagel, a former senator, whose positions on Iran, Israel and the Iraq war triggered concerns among some fellow Republicans.