Susan Rice defiant on Benghazi comments

Susan Rice defiant on Benghazi comments

Susan Rice defiant on Benghazi comments

Ambassador Rice has insisted that her comments were based purely on intelligence. AA photo

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

“I have great respect for Senator McCain and his service to our country,” Rice told Agence France-Presse in her first public comments on the storm on Nov. 21. “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 this with him,” she added.

U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American staff were killed in the Sept. 11 attack. Rice went on U.S. television news shows and said initial intelligence indicated that the assault arose “spontaneously” out of “copycat” protests against U.S. targets in several Muslim nations at the time.

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

“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 said.

“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.”

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