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United States

Obama loses another female Cabinet member

The US labor secretary has announced her resignation from President Obama's Cabinet, making her the fifth to do so in recent weeks. Her departure has also raised questions about the diversity of the president's team.

Following Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis' announcement US President Barack Obama praised her for her service, calling her a "tireless champion for working families."

"Secretary Solis has been a critical member of my economic team as we have worked to recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and strengthen the economy for the middle class," Obama said in a statement on Wednesday.

Solis was the first Hispanic woman to serve in the US Cabinet. The former California congresswoman won praise from labor unions - who found themselves embattled in fights over bargaining rights in states like Wisconsin, Ohio and New Jersey after 2010 state elections - for her advocacy of safety regulations and fair wages for workers.

No replacement has yet been announced for the vacant position.

Reporters pounced on the significance of the announcement, questioning the racial and gender diversity of the US president's closest advisors for his second administration, which begins on January 20.

Of the five Cabinet members who have resigned - Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Lisa Jackson, whose position is considered Cabinet-rank - three were women.

Moreover, President Obama has announced his intentions to nominate white males to fill some of these positions. Senator John Kerry is to take over as secretary of state and former senator Chuck Hagel as defense secretary. John Brennan has also received a nomination to become head of the Central Intelligence Agency.

All Cabinet nominations must be approved by the US Senate.

The White House contested that its staff remained diverse. "Women are well represented in the president's senior staff here," the White House spokeperson Jay Carney told reporters, adding that two of the president's deputy chiefs of staff are women, as is the White House counsel.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius are expected to remain in the Cabinet.

Late last year, President Obama spoke of appointing US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice to secretary of state. She later withdrew her name from consideration after heavy criticism from Republicans for incorrect remarks she made fregarding the cause of the Benghazi attacks in Libya which left four Americans dead.

kms/rg (dpa, Reuters, AFP)