Hughes to State Dept. to Promote U.S. Image

Longtime presidential adviser Karen Hughes (search) will be named to a top post at the State Department on Monday, the White House said, and improving the U.S. image in the Arab world will be a top priority for her. An Egyptian-born White House aide will be nominated as Hughes' second-in-command.

Hughes, who for years has had a major voice in crafting President Bush's domestic message, is a former counselor to the president who left the White House in 2002 to move her family back to Texas.

"Karen Hughes is a valued member of the president's team," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. "She has the full trust of the president."

Hughes and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (search) had breakfast with Bush Monday morning, McClellan said.

McClellan said the choice of Hughes for the post demonstrates the significance Bush places on the task of public diplomacy, the face-to-face effort to spread U.S. ideas and principles abroad.

Public diplomacy typically involves cultural and educational outreach, as well as radio or other media broadcasts that present news and other programming in local languages.

Hughes, a former Texas television reporter, has continued to advise the president from her home in Austin. Although not a diplomat by training, Hughes had a hand in several foreign policy initiatives during Bush's first term, including efforts to promote democracy and improve the lives of women and children in Afghanistan (search). Hughes is also close to Rice, and was expected to appear alongside her at a State Department press conference Monday.

If confirmed by the Senate, Hughes' title would be undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, and she would have the rank of ambassador.

Her deputy would be Dina Powell (search), currently Bush's personnel director. Powell is a fluent Arabic speaker who emigrated to the United States as a child.

Both women would focus on Bush's plan to spread democracy in the Middle East, an effort that has gained momentum with recent elections in Iraq and the Palestinian territories. Powell's title would be deputy undersecretary for educational and cultural affairs.

Hughes and Powell would be the latest close Bush aides to follow Rice to the State Department. Rice was Bush's White House national security adviser during his first term. She succeeded Colin Powell as the top U.S. diplomat in January.