Condoleezza Rice Confirmed by Senate

WASHINGTON (AP) - Condoleezza Rice won easy confirmation Wednesday to be President George W. Bush's new secretary of state, despite strong dissent from a small group of Democrats who said she shares blame for mistakes and war deaths in Iraq.

The Senate voted 85 to 13 to confirm Rice, who succeeds Colin Powell as America's top diplomat and becomes the first black woman to hold the job.

Plans were made for her to be sworn in at the White House on Wednesday night, take her place in the State Department on Thursday morning and have a more elaborate swearing-in by Bush at the agency on Friday.

The Senate vote showed some of the partisanship that delayed Rice's confirmation vote by several days. Most of the votes against Rice were Democrats, including some of the Senate's best-known members such as Massachusetts Democratic Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, who was the party's presidential candidate in last year's election.

Democratic foes of her appointment focused mostly on the way Bush and Rice took the United States to war in Iraq and how they have handled the war with insurgents since deposing Saddam Hussein.

They said mistakes had led to mounting American casualties. As the debate drew to a close, word came from Iraq of the crash of a U.S. military transport helicopter in bad weather, killing at least 31 soldiers in the worst U.S. loss since the Iraqi war began.

Rice's nomination was never in doubt, however. Republicans had hoped to hold the vote last week, on the same day that Bush took the oath for his second term, but Democrats asked for more time.

Rice, 50, is Bush's trusted national security aide and a main architect of his policies on Iraq and the war on terror.

Associated Press