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Controversy over Susan Rice's Benghazi comments continues (+video)

On Tuesday, U.S. United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice met with Republican senators who have accused her of misleading the public following the attack on the US Embassy in Benghazi. The White House is searching for a replacement for Hillary Clinton, who plans to leave her job as secretary of state in January. 

By Tabassum Zakaria and Susan CornwellReuters / November 27, 2012


WASHINGTON

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on Tuesday conceded that an early account she gave about the attack on the U.S. mission in BenghaziLibya, was partly inaccurate, but her admission failed to win over Republican senators who accused her of misleading the public.

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Rice met for about an hour behind closed doors at the U.S. Capitol with Republican Senators John McCainLindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte, who have threatened to block her nomination if President Barack Obama chooses her for secretary of state or another top post in his second-term Cabinet.

They have criticized her for initial comments after the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi that suggested it was a spontaneous event arising from protests over an anti-Islam film rather than a premeditated attack.

The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed in the attack on the Benghazi mission and a nearby CIA annex. Intelligence officials later said the attack was possibly tied to al Qaeda affiliates.

"We are significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got, and some that we didn't get, concerning evidence that was overwhelming leading up to the attack on our consulate," McCain told reporters after the meeting.

"It is clear that the information that she gave the American people was incorrect when she said that it was a spontaneous demonstration triggered by a hateful video," he said.

"It was not, and there was compelling evidence at the time that that was certainly not the case, including statements by Libyans as well as other Americans who are fully aware that people don't bring mortars and rocket-propelled grenades to spontaneous demonstrations," McCain said.

Graham said he would move to block the nomination of "anybody" who was linked to the Benghazi events.

Republicans have argued that the Obama administration tried to play down the terrorist angle in its initial comments to avoid undermining the president's claims of success in fighting al Qaeda in the run-up to the Nov. 6 election.

Rice, who was accompanied to the meeting by acting CIA Director Michael Morell, later issued a statement.

"We explained that the talking points provided by the intelligence community, and the initial assessment upon which they were based, were incorrect in a key respect: there was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi," she said in the statement.

"While, we certainly wish that we had had perfect information just days after the terrorist attack, as is often the case, the intelligence assessment has evolved," she said.

"We stressed that neither I nor anyone else in the Administration intended to mislead the American people at any stage in this process." 

Tempest over talking points 

Rice's controversial Benghazi statements were based on a set of unclassified talking points prepared by U.S. intelligence agencies for members of Congress.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday that the questions about Rice's appearance on the talk shows and the talking points she used had been answered. "The focus on - some might say obsession on - comments made on Sunday shows seems to me and to many to be misplaced," he said.

But Republican senators said the meeting with Rice and Morell left them with more concerns than before. In a statement McCain, Graham and Ayotte said there was now more confusion about who had made changes in the talking points before they were given to Rice.

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