Hillary Clinton defends handling of Benghazi attack

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Washington, Jan 24 (IANS/EFE) Though acknowledging "deficiencies and inadequacies" in the State Department's procedures prior to the Sep 11 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Hillary Clinton defended Washington's response to the strike in testimony Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"Benghazi did not happen in a vacuum. The Arab revolutions have scrambled power dynamics and shattered security forces across the region," the secretary of state told lawmakers.

Four US official personnel, including ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in the assault on the consulate.

"As I have said many times, I take responsibility, and nobody is more committed to getting this right," Clinton said Wednesday.

The changing official narrative about the nature of the incident, which some in Washington initially attributed to spontaneous anger about an anti-Muslim video, led many Republicans to accuse the Obama administration to acknowledge a terrorist attack in the midst of the president's re-election campaign.

Clinton stressed Wednesday that President Barack Obama described the episode as "an act of terror" the day after the deaths in Benghazi.

She also noted the early lack of reliable information about the identity of the attackers as well as their motives.

"There's evidence that the attacks were deliberate, opportunistic and pre-coordinated but not necessarily indicative of extensive planning," she told the Senate panel.

There were "no delays in decision making, no denials of support from Washington or from our military" in the immediate aftermath of the assault, Clinton said.

The independent probe she ordered following the Benghazi attack resulted in 29 recommendations that a State Department task force has used in formulating 64 "specific action items", the secretary said.

"Eighty-five percent (of those items) are now on track to be completed by the end of March," Clinton said.

The former first lady will step down as secretary of state in the coming days. Obama's nominee to succeed her, Sen. John Kerry, is expected to win easy confirmation in the Senate.

--IANS/EFE

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