U.S. President-elect Barack Obama said on Thursday that Rep. Rahm Emanuel, a former key official in the Clinton administration, had accepted his offer to become White House chief of staff.

"I announce this appointment first because the Chief of Staff is central to the ability of a President and Administration to accomplish an agenda," said Obama, who was elected on Tuesday. "And no one I know is better at getting things done than Rahm Emanuel."

Choosing Emanuel was one of Obama's first decisions after becoming president-elect in Tuesday's election.

The hard-charging fellow Chicagoan accepted the job after struggling over family and political considerations. By moving into a top White House job for a second time, Emanuel will have to put aside hopes of becoming speaker of the lower chamber.

He is the son of a Jerusalem-born pediatrician who was a member of the Irgun (Etzel or IZL), a militant Zionist group that operated in Palestine between 1931 and 1948.

Emanuel was a key figure in the administration of former President Bill Clinton, where he was known for his blunt management style. His selection is a shift in tone for Obama, who chose more low-key leadership for his presidential campaign.

Emanuel's quick rise to a party leadership position in the House underlines his political acumen, and his choice by Obama points to the president-elect's preparations to move quickly on getting his legislative agenda through Congress. Emanuel will carry a major role in facilitating and selling Obama's plans.

Obama was working in Chicago on Thursday where he received his first presidential-style intelligence briefing before moving into the White House in 10 weeks.

He planned his first public appearance since his presidential victory for Friday - a meeting with economic advisers to discuss the nation's financial troubles, which Americans listed as their top concern on election day. Obama plans to talk to the news media Friday afternoon after the meeting, aides said.

He and his wife, Michelle, will visit the White House on Monday at the invitation of President George W. Bush, aides said.

His new government faces massive challenges both at home and abroad, as evidence made clear on the first days after his historic victory over Republican John McCain on Tuesday.

The U.S. stock market greeted his elevation to the pinnacle of American power by plunging nearly 500 points Wednesday on more dire news about an economy in the throes of its worst crisis since the 1930s Great Depression. It fell further on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin sounded off as well, with President Dmitry Medvedev declaring: Mechanisms must be created to block mistaken, egoistical and sometimes simply dangerous decisions of certain members of the international community - an apparent reference to the United States under Bush.

Medvedev issued the stark challenge even as he threatened to erect missiles along the Polish border if the Obama administration were to go forward with plans laid out by the Bush administration to create a missile shield in the Eastern Europe.

The Associated Press, meanwhile, declared Obama the winner in North Carolina on Thursday, a symbolic triumph in a state that hadn't voted for a Democrat in more than a generation.

North Carolina's 15 electoral votes brings Obama's total to 364 - nearly 100 more than necessary to win the White House. Missouri is the only state that remains too close to call.

Obama's win in North Carolina was the first for a Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter won the state in 1976.

Before accepting the chief of staff job, Emanuel had told a Chicago television station he was honored but needed to consider the impact on his family.

"I have a lot to weigh: the basis of public service, which I've given my life to, a career choice. And most importantly, what I want to do as a parent," Emanuel said in an interview aired Wednesday.

Emanuel was a political and policy aide to Clinton before he turned to investment banking. He then won a Chicago-area House seat six years ago. In Congress, he moved quickly into the leadership. As chairman of the Democratic campaign committee in 2006, he played an instrumental role in restoring his party to power after 12 years in the minority.

Emanuel maintained neutrality during the long primary battle between Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, not surprising given his long-standing ties to the former first lady and his Illinois connections with Obama.

Other White House officials were being lined up, including Robert Gibbs as the likely pick for press secretary, said several Obama aides. Gibbs has been Obama's longtime spokesman and confidant and was at Obama's side from his 2004 Senate campaign through the long days on the presidential campaign trail.

Obama planned to stay home through the weekend, with a blackout on news announcements so that he and his staff can get some rest after a grueling campaign and the emotional rush of their win Tuesday night. He is planning a trip to Hawaii in December to get away with his family before their move to the White House - and to honor his grandmother, who died Sunday at her home there.