The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved the nomination of Condoleezza Rice for secretary of state, after a two-day confirmation hearing where she was repeatedly questioned over faulty pre-war intelligence on Iraq and ongoing instability in that country.

The panel approved her 16 to two today (Wednesday) (with Democrats Barbara Boxer and John Kerry voting against her). A final Senate vote is expected Thursday.

During her confirmation hearings, Ms. Rice went head-to-head with California Democrat Barbara Boxer, who said she believes the Bush administration knowingly misled the American public about alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The nominee said she believes the world is better off without Saddam Hussein. But she said she is fully aware of the sacrifices made by U.S. troops in Iraq.

Both Republican and Democratic senators also expressed concern over the slow pace of training Iraqi security forces. Ms. Rice said she would be the first to admit there are serious problems with those forces.

Illinois Democrat Barak Obama also urged the Bush administration to reveal a timetable for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq, saying Americans deserve a satisfactory answer.

Outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell made his farewell address at the U.S. State Department today (Wednesday), thanking colleagues for their contribution to U.S. foreign policy efforts.

Mr. Powell said he is thankful for the opportunity to serve the department, and he said his time there will always bring fond memories.

He said his colleagues can be proud of the department's successes, including its worldwide efforts following the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks and the US-led war on terrorism.

The secretary highlighted improved U.S. relations with Russia and China, America's mediation efforts in South Asia and the Middle East, and U.S. relief efforts around the world.

Mr. Powell also expressed confidence in the leadership abilities of Condoleeza Rice, who is expected to succeed him as Secretary of State.