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Trump sacks Tillerson, names CIA's Pompeo as Secretary of State

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Mr Pompeo has grown close to Mr Trump by delivering the president's daily intelligence briefing almost every day since January 2017.

Washington

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was ousted Tuesday after a turbulent tenure with President Donald Trump, blindsiding the former ExxonMobil Corp CEO just hours after he returned from a nearly week-long trip to Africa. "I am proud to nominate the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Mike Pompeo, to be our new Secretary of State," Mr Trump said in a statement.

The decision comes as the US administration is preparing for high stakes and historic talks between Mr Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The president told reporters at the White House that he and Mr Tillerson had disagreements over key issues, such as Iran's nuclear deal. Mr Tillerson, Mr Trump said, "had a different mindset. I think Rex is much happier now".

Mr Trump said he's nominating Mr Pompeo for the State Department's top job, adding: "I respect his intellect." Deputy CIA director Gina Haspel will succeed Mr Pompeo, becoming the first woman to lead the agency. Ms Haspel is a career spy, with more than three decades experience at the agency.

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"As director of the CIA, Mike has earned the praise of members in both parties by strengthening our intelligence gathering, modernising our defensive and offensive capabilities, and building close ties with our friends and allies in the international intelligence community," Mr Trump said.

The move stunned Mr Tillerson, 65, who joined the administration after about four decades at ExxonMobil without having a previous relationship with Mr Trump.

"He had no idea that this was occurring," said Steve Goldstein, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.

Mr Tillerson's dismissal follows a wave of departures and turmoil in Mr Trump's inner circle. The president's top economic adviser Gary Cohn announced plans to leave earlier this month, joining former communications director Hope Hicks. Staff Secretary Rob Porter was fired after allegations of domestic abuse.

"The instability of this administration in just about every area weakens America," Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said on Twitter.

Mr Trump, in his Tuesday announcement, signalled that Mr Pompeo would bring the skills needed to confront the changing foreign policy challenges ahead in his administration. The 54-year-old former congressman from Kansas has grown close to Mr Trump by delivering the president's daily intelligence briefing almost every day since taking office in January 2017.

"I have gotten to know Mike very well over the past 14 months, and I am confident he is the right person for the job at this critical juncture," Mr Trump said.

News of Mr Tillerson's dismissal sent European stocks and government bond yields down. Europe's STOXX 600 fell to a session low, down 0.3 per cent on the news. Yields on safe-haven bonds in the eurozone also fell, with Germany's 10-year bond yield touching a fresh one-week low at 0.608 per cent.

Oil rose sparking a dollar fall and concern that a deal on Iran's nuclear programme could collapse from the latest development.

US investors however shrugged off news of Mr Tillerson's ouster as Wall Street's main indices rose early on Tuesday as fears of faster interest rate hikes eased after tepid consumer prices data. BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

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