WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, addressing criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of a deadly attack on US consulate in Libya, defended the need for American diplomats and aid workers in the Arab world’s young democracies of Friday, even amid a growing threat from Al Qaeda spinoffs.
‘‘We will not retreat,’’ she said in a speech at a Washington think tank.
‘‘We will never prevent every act of violence or terrorism, or achieve perfect security,’’ Clinton said. ‘‘Our people can’t live in bunkers and do their jobs. But it is our solemn responsibility to constantly improve, to reduce the risks our people face and make sure they have the resources they need to do their jobs.’’
Her address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies comes as Republicans seized on the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11 as a sign of what they say is the administration’s weak foreign policy, intelligence failures and a laissez-faire attitude toward security at diplomatic missions in hot spots.
She spoke a day after a Yemeni security official at the US Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, was assassinated on his way to work.
Congressional hearings this week revealed that the State Department was aware of, and rejected, several requests for increased security in Benghazi.
Clinton said she wanted to find out exactly what happened in Benghazi more than anyone, but did not go into the specifics of the consulate’s security. Instead, she focused on the larger question of why the US diplomats were stationed in the largely lawless Libyan city.
‘‘Diplomacy, by its very nature, is often practiced in dangerous places,’’ she said.
Twenty-one months into the Arab Spring, Clinton stressed that the promise of new democracies in an area of the world long dominated by autocratic rulers has not been lost.
She said the US needed to keep fostering the elected governments and free citizens who, she hoped, would define the region’s future.