Rice says Benghazi comments based on preliminary intelligence

UNITED NATIONS Thu Nov 22, 2012 5:57am IST

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice speaks with the media after Security Council consultations at U.N. headquarters in New York June 7, 2012. REUTERS/Allison Joyce/Files

U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice speaks with the media after Security Council consultations at U.N. headquarters in New York June 7, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Allison Joyce/Files

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, broke her silence on Wednesday and defended her remarks on a September attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to the North African nation.

Republicans have criticized Rice for appearing on several TV talk shows five days after the September 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi and saying that preliminary information suggested the assault was the result of protests over an anti-Muslim film, rather than a premeditated strike.

"I relied solely and squarely on the information provided to me by the intelligence community," said Rice, who is seen as a possible nominee to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"I made clear that the information provided to me was preliminary and that our investigations would give us the definitive answers," Rice told reporters at the United Nations in her first comments on the controversy.

The U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans were killed in the attack, which has raised questions about security of diplomatic missions, U.S. intelligence about the threat, and the adequacy of the immediate response.

"Everyone, particularly the intelligence community, has worked in good faith, to provide the best assessment based on the information available," Rice said. "None of us will rest ... until we have the answer and the terrorists responsible for this attack will be brought to the justice."

Senate Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham vowed made last week to oppose any attempt by President Barack Obama to elevate Rice to a Cabinet position that would require Senate confirmation.

Rice said some statements about her by McCain were "unfounded." "I look forward to having the opportunity at the appropriate time to discuss all of this with him," she said.

The White House has also said that Rice's comments were based on the best information she had at the time.

Obama warned Republicans last week that if they had a problem with his administration's handling of the Benghazi attack to "go after me" rather than picking on Rice.

Senator Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on Sunday the criticism of Rice was "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."

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Paul Simao and Christopher Wilson)

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