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UN envoy takes heat on Libya attack

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Monday rejected a demand from a senior Republican lawmaker that the US ambassador to the United Nations resign.

Representative Peter King of New York said last week that Susan Rice’s explanation of the Sept. 11 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was a foreign policy failure.

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He told CNN that Rice — a possible candidate for secretary of state if President Obama wins reelection — should resign for comments she made five days after the attack indicating it was not a premeditated or coordinated strike. Officials now say it was a planned terrorist attack, distinct from mob protests in the Arab world over a US-made Internet video ridiculing Islam.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton believes Rice has done a ‘‘superb job.’’ The department completely rejects calls for Rice’s resignation, Nuland said.

Rice has also received strong support from Democratic senators, who accuse Republicans of trying to politicize the attack in Libya that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Leading GOP senators, who vote on any Cabinet nomination, have yet to weigh in.

Several Republicans and Democrats have called for more detailed explanations from the White House and State Department on possible security lapses at the Libyan post. “There were warnings,” Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, said Sunday on CNN’s ‘‘State of the Union.’’

The Sept. 11 attack followed several weeks of violence against other diplomatic posts in Benghazi. State Department officials said they were aware of the growing risks and took precautions.

After an attack in April on the convoy of Ian Martin, the UN special envoy for Libya, the US Embassy in Tripoli sent about four Special Forces soldiers to Benghazi to increase security at the consulate and determine whether more guards were needed.

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