Senate Democrat says he will oppose Rex Tillerson for State Department

WASHINGTON, Jan 23 (Reuters) - The most senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said on Monday he would not support President Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.

Senator Ben Cardin said he was not persuaded to support Tillerson's nomination even after the former Exxon Mobil chief executive spent an hours-long hearing earlier this month seeking to assure lawmakers that he was fit for the job.

Cardin said Tillerson should have described recent Russian and Syrian military actions in the Middle East as "war crimes" when he was asked about those countries during his conformation hearing.

SEE ALSO: Trump invites Netanyahu to Washington for visit: White House

"The power of the Secretary of State to call out wrong, to name and shame, and to fight each day on behalf of the American people and freedom-seeking people the world over is an enduring symbol," Cardin said in a prepared statement.

RELATED: Trump's official picks for cabinet and administration positions

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Trump's official picks for Cabinet and administration positions
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Trump's official picks for Cabinet and administration positions

Counselor to the President: Kellyanne Conway

REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Veterans Affairs Secretary: David Shulkin

(Photo credit DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)

Transportation secretary: Elaine Chao

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Energy secretary: Rick Perry

(Photo credit KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)

Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson

 REUTERS/Daniel Kramer

Secretary of Defense: Retired Marine General James Mattis

(Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Chief of staff: Reince Priebus

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Chief strategist: Steve Bannon

(EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Attorney General: Senator Jeff Sessions

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Director of the CIA: Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Deputy national security adviser: K.T. McFarland

(Photo by Michael Schwartz/Getty Images)

White House counsel: Donald McGahn

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Ambassador to the United Nations: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley

(Photo by Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Education secretary: Betsy DeVos

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Commerce secretary: Wilbur Ross

(Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Homeland security secretary: General John Kelly

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Housing and urban development secretary: Ben Carson

(Photo credit NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Administrator of Environmental Protection Agency: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Health and human services secretary: Tom Price

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Department of Homeland Security: Retired General John Kelly

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Secretary of agriculture: Sonny Perdue

(BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)
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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has relied on Russian help to try to suppress rebel opposition to his rule that sprang up in 2011.

During his Jan. 11 confirmation hearing, Tillerson deplored military action in Syria but stopped short of calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a war criminal.

Despite opposition from Democrats, Tillerson is expected to win confirmation.

Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham said in a statement on Sunday they would vote to approve Tillerson despite their concerns over his relationship with Putin.

SEE ALSO: Reports: Trump associates being investigated for possible ties to Russia

Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who grilled Tillerson during the hearing, has not said yet how he will vote.

The committee is to vote on Tillerson later on Monday. A vote in the full, Republican-controlled Senate is expected shortly afterward.

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