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Libya

Susan Rice breaks silence on Libya

America's UN ambassador has defended statements she made following an attack on the US embassy in Libya. They were based on inaccurate information and her critics include former presidential candidate John McCain.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, who has faced domestic scrutiny for statements she made immediately following an attack on the US embassy in Libya, on Wednesday defended herself against her critics.

"I relied solely and squarely on the information provided to me by the intelligence community," said Rice, who is widely considered as the favorite to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. Clinton is anticipated to resign at the end of President Barack Obama's first term, which finishes on January 20, 2013.

"I made clear that the information provided to me was preliminary and that our investigations would give us the definitive answers," Rice said to reporters at the United Nations, breaking her prior silence on the issue.

Republicans had criticized Rice for appearing on a number of televised talk shows days after an attack on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi on September 11, which left four Americans dead, including the US ambassador to the country, Christopher Stevens.

On those talk shows, Rice cited preliminary information that suggested the attack was sparked by protests over an anti-Islam film, which was made in the US, rather than being a pre-planned assault. The Obama administration later admitted that its intelligence services had from the start interpreted the attack as a terrorist assault perpetrated by extremists linked to al Qaeda.

Republicans speak out

Senator John McCain, who stood as the Republican presidential nominee in his country's 2008 election, has - along with other Republicans - charged the Obama administration with attempting to mislead the public over the true origins of the incident. Both the former Republican leader and fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham have also vowed to oppose any attempt by President Barack Obama to appoint Rice to a position in his cabinet, a move that would require the approval of the Senate.

Obama responded to rising criticism of Rice by insisting last week that those with concerns about the handling of the Benghazi attack by his administration should “go after [him].”

Senator Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also came to Rice's defense on Sunday, branding criticism of the UN ambassador as "one of the most unfair attacks I've ever seen in Washington in 34 years. Susan Rice was using the unclassified talking points which were provided by the intelligence community."

sej/slk (AFP, Reuters)