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Obama defends Rice over Benghazi attacks

Source : | 14 November 2012 |  24H | 306 views

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WASHINGTON, Nov 14, 2012 (AFP) -

President Barack Obama Wednesday angrily hit out Republicans gunning for the US ambassador United Nations, Susan Rice, who is under fire over the militant attack on the US mission in Libya.

Refusing to say if he planned to pick her to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama defended Rice saying she had done “exemplary work” at the UN showing “skill and professionalism and toughness and grace.”

Rice has been widely criticized after she said only days after the September 11 attack on the Benghazi consulate that according to the current intelligence it had started with a spontaneous protest against an anti-Islam film.

The Obama administration has since acknowledged that the attack, in which ambassador Chris Stevens and three other US staff were killed, was carried out by militants linked to Al-Qaeda.

“She gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her,” the president insisted, training his fire on Republican lawmakers.

“For them to go after the UN ambassador who had nothing to do with Benghazi, and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received, and to besmirch her reputation is outrageous.”

Obama, appearing at his first press conference since his re-election last week, also said Rice had appeared on the Sunday talk shows following the attack at the request of the White House.

Rice is reported to be one of the top favorites to be the new secretary of state, as Clinton has made it clear she is stepping down.

But Republicans have presaged a tough battle in the Senate, where she would need 60 votes to be confirmed as America’s next top diplomat.

“I will do everything in my power to block her from being the United States Secretary of State,” Republican Senator John McCain said on Fox News Wednesday.

“She went out and told the American people something that was patently false and defied common sense,” he added, echoing comments made at the weekend by Senator Lindsey Graham who predicted Rice would have “an incredibly difficult time getting through the Senate.”

Obama hit back angrily Wednesday: “If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. And I’m happy to have that discussion with them.”

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