WASHINGTON — The US Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved General David Petraeus's nomination to head the CIA, the panel's chair and vice chair said.

The committee's action means Petraeus could win full Senate confirmation as early as this week to succeed outgoing CIA director Leon Panetta, who is due to replace retiring Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

"The committee voted unanimously today to report his nomination to the full Senate," the panel's leaders Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss said in a joint statement.

"We look forward to a speedy confirmation this week so General Petraeus can take the reins of the CIA at this critical time for our country."

The called Petraeus "an outstanding public servant and one of our country's finest officers."