AMERICA'S next secretary of state moved to play down the role of unmanned drone attacks in US President Barack Obama's foreign policy, as the UN prepared to investigate the controversial campaign against al-Qa'ida.
John Kerry, the veteran senator and 2004 presidential candidate, attempted to emphasise softer elements of US action overseas while preparing to replace Hillary Clinton as America's most senior diplomat.
"American foreign policy is not defined by drones and deployments alone," Mr Kerry told the Senate foreign relations committee. "American foreign policy is also defined by food security and energy security, humanitarian assistance, the fight against disease and the push for development, as much as it is by any single counter-terrorism initiative."
The Vietnam veteran will be charged by Mr Obama with guiding US foreign policy in an era of contentious and secretive attacks on terrorist suspects in states such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, using remotely controlled drones.
Yesterday, the United Nations started an inquiry into the so-called "targeted killing" programme, having repeatedly warned Washington that it may breach international law.
Ben Emmerson, the UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, promised that the investigation would offer "a critical examination" of the drone campaign, which is estimated to have killed more than 2,000 people.
His announcement was welcomed by anti-drone campaigners. Hina Shamsi, of the American Civil Liberties Union, said: "Virtually no other country agrees with the US's claimed authority to secretly declare people enemies of the state and kill them and civilian bystanders far from any recognised battlefield." (© Daily Telegraph, London)