Rice defends Libya killings comments

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iol pic afr Susan Rice89 REUTERS US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.

United Nations -

Susan Rice, US ambassador to the United Nations, said on Wednesday she has been the victim of “unfounded” Republican attacks over her account of a militant assault on the US embassy in Libya.

Rice is a frontrunner to be the next US secretary of state but Senator John McCain and other Republicans have said they would block her confirmation by the US Senate because of the controversy.

President Barack Obama has strongly defended Rice, but kept everyone waiting to see whether he would risk naming his trusted confidante to replace Hillary Clinton.

“Let me be very clear. I have great respect for Senator McCain and his service to our country, I always have, and I always will,” Rice told reporters in her first public comments on the storm.

“I do think that some of the statements he made about me have been unfounded, but I look forward to having the opportunity at the appropriate time to discuss all of this with him,” she added.

Rice insisted the comments she made on US talk shows on the Sunday after the deadly attack on the US consulate in Benghazi was based purely on intelligence guidance.

US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American staff were killed in the September 11 attack.

McCain and other Republicans have accused the US administration of seeking to mislead the public over the true cause of the attack.

Rice went on US television news shows and said initial intelligence indicated that the assault arose “spontaneously” out of “copycat” protests against US targets in several Muslim nations at the time. US authorities now say it was a “terrorist” attack.

“As a senior White House diplomat, I agreed to a White House request to appear on the Sunday shows to talk about the full range of national security issues of the day,” she said. This included the Benghazi attack and Iran's nuclear facilities.

“When discussing the attacks against our facilities in Benghazi, I relied solely and squarely on the information provided to me by the intelligence community,” the ambassador added.

“I made it clear that the information was preliminary and that our investigations would give us the definitive answers,” she added.

Rice said the death of Stevens and the other officials was a “massive tragedy”. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and State Department investigators are now looking into the Benghazi killings.

“None of us will rest, none of us will be satisfied, until we have the answers and the terrorists responsible for this attack are brought to justice,” Rice declared. - Sapa-AFP


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