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Kerry takes reins at US State Department in 'homecoming'

Published on Feb 5, 2013 5:58 AM
John Kerry, the new US Secretary of State, holds the diplomatic passport he was issued at eleven years old, while greeting employees of the State Department in Washington Feb 4, 2013. Kerry's father, Richard, was a US Foreign Service officer in Berlin after World War II. -- PHOTO : REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - John Kerry seized the reins of US diplomacy on Monday, winning a warm welcome from State Department staff as he took over from Hillary Clinton in what he described as a "homecoming."

Proving that "the Foreign Service is in my genes," Mr Kerry brandished a battered copy of his first diplomatic passport, issued at the age of 11 when his diplomat father was posted to Berlin.

And he triggered laughter from hundreds packed into the bureau's grand entrance when he mused "Can a man actually run the State Department?" before admitting with some self-deprecating humour: "I have big heels to fill."

The new secretary of state paid tribute to Mrs Clinton, who followed Condoleezza Rice into the job and stepped down on Friday after four years in office. "Job well done. The nation is grateful. The world is grateful. Thank you, Hillary Clinton, and thank you, her team," Mr Kerry said.

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