Obama picks top advisor as State Department deputy

The US Senate confirms Tony Blinken, pictured here on July 28, 2014 in Washington, DC, as deputy secretary of state, installing a seasoned insider who has served as a close advisor to President Barack Obama (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan) (AFP/File)

Washington (AFP) - US President Barack Obama on Friday nominated his deputy national security advisor Tony Blinken to become the number two to top diplomat John Kerry, ending a fierce behind-the-scenes tussle.

If confirmed by Senate, Blinken will succeed Bill Burns as deputy secretary of state in a key role amid a wealth of global diplomatic challenges, the White House announced.

Obama last week named veteran diplomat Wendy Sherman, who is leading the US team to nuclear negotiations with Iran, to step in temporarily -- with observers saying there was a battle going on within the administration on whether she or Blinken would take up the post full-time.

Welcoming the nomination, national security advisor Susan Rice said Blinken had "served at the highest levels of government for two decades."

"Tony has built bridges across the interagency community to forge consensus on a broad range of challenging policy issues," Rice said in a statement.

Blinken has been one of the architects of the Obama administration's fight against Islamic militants, and also played a role behind-the-scenes in the Iran negotiations, the New York Times said.

Kerry also congratulated Blinken who began his career in government when he first joined the State Department in 1993, saying "diplomatic service is in Tony's blood."

"He comes home to the State Department knowing and appreciating the deep expertise that the department brings to bear in shaping our foreign policy."

Kerry said he had known Blinken for some 20 years and his "deep policy expertise, impeccable judgment, and an inclusive leadership style will make him an exceptional leader and manager."

Sherman, who is also undersecretary of state for political affairs, wants to see a smooth transition and will stay on until sometime in 2015 when she is expected to remain in a senior role, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Burns, who retired last month, is remaining on board to help with the Iran negotiations as a deadline looms for a deal on November 24.