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US senate demands answers over 'grossly inadequate' security in Benghazi

Legislators ask why security was 'grossly inadequate' when militants stormed the US consulate in Libya, killing the ambassador and three other Americans.

WASHINGTON // US legislators demanded answers again yesterday on why security was "grossly inadequate" when militants stormed the country's diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, killing the ambassador and three other Americans, and on why the military failed to respond faster during the nine-hour assault.

Senator John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - and possibly the next US secretary of state - said as congressional hearings began yesterday that mistakes were made, but Congress shares some of the blame for failing to provide the State Department sufficient funds.

The public testimony came two days after an independent review panel issued a blistering report blaming management failures at the State Department for the lack of security.

Members of the Senate and House foreign affairs committees were questioning deputy secretary of state William Burns, who is in charge of policy, and deputy secretary of state Thomas Nides, who is in charge of management.

Lawmakers also insist that secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton testify in the coming weeks despite her plan to leave the administration. Mrs Clinton had been scheduled to testify yesterday, but she cancelled after fainting and sustaining a concussion last week while recovering from a stomach virus. She is under doctors' orders to rest.

Many Republicans have used the Libya attack to criticise the Obama administration and its response. Their opposition to United Nations mbassador Susan Rice as a possible candidate to succeed Mrs Clinton, after Ms Rice blamed the attack not on terrorism but on protests against an anti-Muslim film. Ms Rice explained that she had relied on talking points drawn up by intelligence agencies.

"Why, if we quickly did find out it was in part a terrorist attack, why wasn't there better security on that evening with the ambassador in Benghazi and in the consulate and what do we need to do to make sure?" asked Republican senator Johnny Isakson

US Ambassador J Christopher Stevens was killed, along with three others.

An unclassified version of the report by the Accountability Review Board concluded that "systematic" management and leadership failures at the State Department led to "grossly inadequate" security at the mission in Benghazi.

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