By Matt Spetalnick
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama is expected to announce his nominees for secretaries of state and defense in the next two weeks, with former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel on the short list of potential choices to head the Pentagon, senior administration officials said on Tuesday.
Hagel, whose appointment would give Obama's reshuffled second-term cabinet a bipartisan cast, met the Democratic president at the White House this week to discuss a post on his national security team. But there was no sign Obama had decided on the key nominations he will put forth.
Obama also is still deliberating whether to unveil his top national security appointments, which is likely to include a new CIA director, in a single package this month or to name them one-by-one, one of the administration officials said.
Other top contenders to replace Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, are believed to include former senior Pentagon official Michele Flournoy, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Democratic Senator John Kerry,
Complicating matters, Obama is also deciding whether to nominate Kerry as secretary of state to replace Hillary Clinton or to go with Susan Rice, embattled U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Rice is a long-time confidant of the president but picking her would lead to a tough Senate confirmation battle over her comments in the wake of the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya.
Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has long coveted the job as America's top diplomat and would face a much smoother confirmation process if nominated. It is unclear, however, whether he would accept the Pentagon post instead.
(Additional reporting by Steve Holland and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Jackie Frank)
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