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Susan Rice, the US ambassador at the UN, is to become President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, officials say.

Susan Rice will replace Tom Donilon, who is set to announce shortly he is resigning after almost three years in the post.

She was once seen as a contender for the job of secretary of state, but was forced to withdraw after opposition from Republicans in Congress.

Susan Rice, 48, was criticized for her remarks after Benghazi attack on diplomats in Libya.

Susan Rice is to become President Barack Obama's national security adviser

Susan Rice is to become President Barack Obama’s national security adviser

She suggested the assault by armed men on the US embassy in the city of Benghazi in September 2012 sprang from a spontaneous protest over a US-made film depicting the Prophet Muhammad – an account which was later proven to be incorrect.

The attack left four Americans dead, including the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens.

Susan Rice is seen by analysts as a close political ally of Barack Obama.

Her new post as national security adviser does not require Senate confirmation. Tom Donilon is expected to remain in the role until July.

President Barack Obama is also expected to announce who will replace Susan Rice as Washington’s envoy to the UN at its headquarters in New York.

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The newly released White House Benghazi emails reveal the then CIA-Director David Petraeus strongly objected to the Obama administration’s version of events of the terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Libya.

David Petraeus, who was forced to resign in disgrace in November after an extra-marital affair with Paula Broadwell became public, wanted to see more detail made available, including a warning issued from the CIA about plans for an embassy attack.

The documents give a glimpse into the administration’s message control as officials carefully debated via email which details U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice should highlight when she went on talk shows five days later to discuss the September 11 assault on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.

The White House on Wednesday released 99 pages of emails and a single page of hand-written notes made by Petraeus’ deputy, Mike Morell, after a meeting at the White House the day before U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice began giving interviews to the media based on the agreed “talking points”.

On that page, Mike Morell scratched out from the CIA’s early drafts of talking points mentions of al-Qaeda, the experience of fighters in Libya, Islamic extremists and a warning to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on the eve of the attacks of calls for a demonstration.

“No mention of the cable to Cairo, either?” David Petraeus wrote after receiving Mike Morell’s edited version, developed after an intense back-and-forth among Obama administration officials.

Frankly, I’d just as soon not use this, then.”

Senior administration officials told reporters Wednesday that Mike Morell made the changes to the talking points because of his own concerns that they could prejudge an FBI investigation into who was responsible for the September 11th, 2012, attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

The officials said Mike Morell also didn’t think it was fair to disclose the CIA’s advance warning without giving Hillary Clinton’s State Department a chance to explain how it responded.

The officials spoke on a condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the emails on the record.

Officials said that Mike Morell acted on his own judgement and not with any pressure coming down from the State Department.

However, when David Petraeus received the final draft of the media talking points he was dismissive, saying that the reduced list would not satisfy the House Democrat who had asked for it.

“This is certainly not what Vice Chairman Ruppersberger was hoping to get,” David Petraeus wrote, in reference to Representative C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

The White House released the emails to the media after some of them leaked on Friday and seemed to suggest that President Barack Obama’s national security team may have altered the talking points for political gain.

And while the White House claims these are all the correspondence that occurred in the aftermath of the terror attack on Benghazi, they suggest more of battle between the State Department and the CIA – rather than the president’s own team.

“In recent days, these e-mails have been selectively and inaccurately read out to the media,” said a White House spokesman, Eric Schultz.

Critics have highlighted an email by then-State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland that expressed concern that any mention of prior warnings or the involvement of al-Qaeda would give congressional Republicans ammunition to attack the administration in the weeks before the presidential election. Fighting terror was one of President Barack Obama’s re-election strong points.

That email was among those released by the White House, sent by Victoria Nuland on September 14th at 7:39 p.m. to officials in the White House, State Department and CIA.

“I have serious concerns about all the parts highlighted below, and arming members of Congress to start making assertions to the media that we ourselves are not making because we don’t want to prejudice the investigation,” she wrote.

In another, Victoria Nuland sends the White House and intelligence officials an email warning that the talking points could be “abused” by opposition politicians “to beat the State Department for not paying attention to agency warnings so why do we want to feed that either?”.

White House Benghazi emails reveal the then CIA-Director David Petraeus strongly objected to the Obama administration's version of events of the terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Libya

White House Benghazi emails reveal the then CIA-Director David Petraeus strongly objected to the Obama administration’s version of events of the terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Libya

The emails were shared with Congress earlier this year as a condition for allowing the nomination of John Brennan for CIA director to move forward.

The general counsel for the national intelligence director’s office briefed members and staff from the Senate Intelligence Committee and leadership on the emails on February 15th at a session in which staff could take notes.

A similar briefing took place March 19 for the House Intelligence Committee and leadership staff.

An interim report last month from the Republicans on five House committees criticized the Obama administration and mentioned the emails, but the issue exploded last Friday when new details emerged.

Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee read some of the emails aloud last Wednesday at a hearing with State Department officials.

The next day, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called on the White House to release the emails.

Congressional officials selectively shared parts of the emails, and new revelations emerged Friday that showed State Department and other administration officials pressing for references to terror groups and prior warnings to be deleted, expressing concerns about the political implications.

The White House released the full set of emails sent to Congress under the pressure in hopes of putting an end to the controversy that has dogged the administration for months.

The White House says congressional Republicans have misrepresented some of them.

The emails released by the White House were partially blacked out, including to remove names of senders and recipients who are career employees at the CIA and elsewhere.

The names were replaced with references to the office where they worked.

The talking points were used by Rice in her appearance on five news shows on Sunday, September 16, and also sent to Congress.

An official with the CIA’s office of congressional affairs whose name was blacked out sent the final version to David Petraeus on Saturday, September 15, at 12:51 p.m.

“As mentioned last night, State had voiced strong concerns with the original text due to the criminal investigation,” the official wrote.

David Petraeus responded at 2:27 saying he’d prefer not to even use them in that form.

But he said the decision was up to the White House’s national security staff.

“NSS’s call, to be sure; however, this is certainly not what Vice Chairman [Dutch] Ruppersberger was hoping to get for unclas use. Regardless, thanks for the great work.”

C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

At a Capitol Hill hearing Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder said there has been “very, very substantial progress” in the investigation into who was responsible for the twin nighttime attacks in Benghazi.

Earlier this month, the FBI said it was seeking information on three people who were on the grounds of the diplomatic mission when it was attacked.

The FBI posted photographs of the three people and said they may be able to provide information to help in the investigation.

Rep. Adam Smith of Washington State, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said Wednesday’s release of the emails was a “wise choice”.

There was little in the roughly 100 pages of emails about Susan Rice’s “talking points” that had not been leaked previously.

While awkward for the White House, releasing the emails was an effort to counter complaints from Republicans and the media that President Barack Obama’s administration is secretive.

They included an email confirming perhaps the most damaging charge that administration officials removed mention from Susan Rice’s talking points that the CIA had warned of an al-Qaeda threat in the area of the eastern Libyan city before the attacks.

In the Benghazi emails, then-State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland raised concerns about references to intelligence about the threat from militants in eastern Libya.

Victoria Nuland wrote that she had “serious concerns” that the talking points would provide members of Congress with material to “beat the State Department for not paying attention to [Central Intelligence] Agency warnings” about threats in the region.

It was not clear who she was referring to but Republicans have tried to link former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a possible Democratic candidate for president in 2016, to the controversy over Benghazi.

“The seemingly political nature of the State Department’s concerns raises questions about the motivations behind these changes and who at the State Department was seeking them,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner.

Republicans say the talking points were an attempt to portray the attacks as arising from a spontaneous protest, and not an organized militant assault, so as to protect Barack Obama in last year’s presidential campaign from any charges that he was weak on fighting terrorism.

The White House vehemently denies any cover-up and emphasizes that the controversy over the talking points focuses on intelligence that eventually evolved. The emails, officials said, showed a normal back and forth between government agencies on a fluid national security event.

“Collectively these emails make clear that the interagency process, including the White House’s interactions, were focused on providing the facts as we knew them based on the best information available at the time and protecting an ongoing investigation,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.

Officials also suggested that Victoria Nuland was not the only one with concerns about the original talking points.

White House Benghazi Emails

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US security chief Eric Boswell has quit and three others are suspended after a damning report into a deadly attack on a US mission in Benghazi.

The state department said diplomatic security chief Eric Boswell resigned and three other unnamed officials had been put on administrative leave.

US envoy to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other officials were killed in the attack on September 11.

An internal report said “grossly inadequate” security led to the deaths.

However, the report did not suggest disciplinary action be taken against any individuals.

“The Accountability Review Board identified the performance of four officials, three in the Bureau of the Diplomatic Security and one in the Bureau of Near East Asia Affairs,” state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.

“The secretary has accepted Eric Boswell’s decision to resign… The other three individuals have been relieved of their current duties.”

US media have named one of Eric Boswell’s deputies, Charlene Lamb, and Raymond Maxwell, deputy assistant secretary for the Maghreb, among those relieved of their duties.

US security chief Eric Boswell has quit and three others are suspended after a damning report into a deadly attack on a US mission in Benghazi

US security chief Eric Boswell has quit and three others are suspended after a damning report into a deadly attack on a US mission in Benghazi

Christopher Stevens died of smoke inhalation when he was trapped alone in the burning building after armed men had stormed the compound.

Days after the attack, US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said the attack seemed to have developed out of protests over an anti-Islamic film.

But later intelligence reports suggested it was a planned attack by Islamist gunmen.

Susan Rice was forced to pull out of the race to be the next secretary of state after being subjected to widespread criticism.

The board’s report found “a lack of transparency, responsiveness, and leadership” among certain senior state department officials.

But the review found no “reasonable cause” that any specific individuals had “engaged in misconduct or willfully ignored” their responsibilities.

It also said there had been “no immediate, specific” intelligence about the September 11 attack or threats to the consulate.

The probe concluded that the US personnel had “performed with courage and readiness to risk their lives to protect their colleagues in a near-impossible situation”.

But the Benghazi mission had nevertheless been hampered by a lack of resources.

Its reliance on armed “but poorly skilled” local militiamen and contract guards was “misplaced”, the report said.

In a letter to Congress, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she accepted all 29 of the recommendations put forward in the report.

Hillary Clinton outlined some steps the agency would take, including sending hundreds of US Marines guards to missions abroad and assigning a state department official to oversee “high-threat posts”.

In addition, Hillary Clinton said the state department would request more funding from Congress to make improvements to security.

Benghazi report: Key findings

  • There were “systematic failures at senior levels” within two bureaus of the state department, but no individual official ignored their duties
  • Reliance on armed “but poorly skilled” local militiamen and contract guards was “misplaced”
  • US personnel had “performed with courage and readiness to risk their lives to protect their colleagues in a near-impossible situation”
  • There was “no immediate, specific” intelligence about the September 11 attack or threats to the consulate
  • The Libyan government’s response to the attack was “profoundly lacking”

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White House has announced that UN Ambassador Susan Rice has withdrawn her name for consideration to succeed Hillary Clinton as US secretary of state.

In a letter to President Barack Obama, Susan Rice said her confirmation process would be “disruptive and costly”, NBC News said.

Susan Rice has been at the centre of Republican criticism over the Obama administration response to a deadly attack on a US consulate in Libya.

Hillary Clinton has said she will not serve a second term at the state department.

In a letter to President Barack Obama, Susan Rice said that she was “highly honored” to be considered for the post of secretary of state and was “fully confident that I could serve our country ably and effectively in that role”.

But she added: “I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly – to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities.”

“That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country,” Susan Rice wrote.

UN Ambassador Susan Rice has withdrawn her name for consideration to succeed Hillary Clinton as US secretary of state

UN Ambassador Susan Rice has withdrawn her name for consideration to succeed Hillary Clinton as US secretary of state

Barack Obama said in a statement: “I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks.”

He added that her decision to withdraw from consideration reflected strength of character and an ability to rise above politics.

Days after the September 11th assault on the US consulate, Susan Rice, 48, said in a series of TV interviews that it seemed to have developed out of protests over an anti-Islamic film.

But later intelligence reports suggested the attack was carried out by al-Qaeda affiliates.

Her comments triggered a major political row over who knew what and when.

The attack left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Susan Rice, who is hotly tipped to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has admitted releasing incorrect information after September’s attack on the American consulate in Libya.

UN Ambassador Susan Rice said there had been no attempt to mislead the public, but Republicans were unconvinced.

After meeting Susan Rice on Tuesday, senators said they were troubled.

The envoy said her initial line that the Benghazi attack appeared to have sprung from a protest had been wrong.

The September 11 assault on the US consulate triggered a major political row over who knew what and when.

Days afterwards, Susan Rice, 48, said in a series of TV interviews that it seemed to have developed out of protests over an anti-Islamic film.

Later intelligence reports suggested it was possibly tied to al-Qaeda affiliates.

On Tuesday, Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte met privately with Ms Rice and acting CIA Director Michael Morell to discuss the attack.

Susan Rice has admitted releasing incorrect information after September's attack on the American consulate in Libya

Susan Rice has admitted releasing incorrect information after September’s attack on the American consulate in Libya

After the meeting on Capitol Hill, Susan Rice said: “The talking points provided by the intelligence community, and the initial assessment upon which they were based, were incorrect in a key respect: there was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi.

“While we certainly wish that we had had perfect information just days after the terrorist attack, as is often the case the intelligence assessment has evolved.”

But the Republicans said questions remained unanswered.

Senator John McCain said: “We are significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got and some that we didn’t get concerning evidence that was leading up to the attack.”

Senator Lindsey Graham said that he was “more disturbed now than I was before”, adding that he would “absolutely” attempt to block any nomination of Ms Rice for secretary of state.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Tuesday there were “no unanswered questions” about Susan Rice’s response to the Benghazi incident, accusing Republicans of being obsessed with it.

Republicans are demanding a joint committee investigate the attack, which left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is not expected to continue in the role for a second four-year term. The Obama administration would need the support of the Senate for any nomination to the post.

After winning re-election, President Barack Obama vigorously defended Susan Rice, calling Republican criticism of her “outrageous”.

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David Petraeus has told US Congress that the CIA believed almost immediately that al-Qaeda-linked terrorists were behind the September 11th attacks in Benghazi, according to a leading Republican congressman.

Representative Peter King of New York, a member of the House Intelligence Committee that David Petraeus briefed, said that the former general left a “different impression” today than he had when he testified on Capitol Hill three days after the attack.

Now, Peter King said, David Petraeus insisted that the “original talking points prepared by the CIA were different than the final ones put out” and used by Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, on Sunday talk shows to say – incorrectly – that the attack was sparked by anger over an anti-Islam video made in California.

“The original talking points were much more specific about al-Qaeda involvement and yet the final ones just said <<indications of extremists>> even though it was clearly evident to the CIA that there was al-Qaeda involvement,” Peter King said.

The former CIA director was giving classified testimony and was accompanied by a CIA analyst. Peter King said David Petraeus did not speak under oath.

David Petraeus arrived early Friday for closed hearings on Capitol Hill as lawmakers seek details from the retired general about the September 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

Peter King said that there was only brief mention by David Petraeus of his affair with biographer Paula Broadwell, which triggered his shock resignation last Friday.

“He was asked at the start did that have any impact on his testimony, he said no…10 seconds into it, that was off to the side.”

David Petraeus has told US Congress that the CIA believed almost immediately that al-Qaeda-linked terrorists were behind the September 11th attacks in Benghazi

David Petraeus has told US Congress that the CIA believed almost immediately that al-Qaeda-linked terrorists were behind the September 11th attacks in Benghazi

The New York congressman said that David Petraeus had explained that the talking points ultimately used by Susan Rice had been altered by inputs by a number of other government agencies after the CIA had made its assessment.

“He said that it goes though a long process, an interagency process and when they came back it was taken out.”
The House Intelligence Committee, which was hearing from David Petraeus before he briefed the Senate Intelligence Committee, met in a secure room several floors below the main area of the Capitol Visitors Centre, where tourists gather when they are visiting Congress.

Republicans and some Democrats have demanded an explanation of why the Obama administration initially described the attack at Benghazi as a protest gone awry, leading to the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, diplomat Sean Smith and CIA contractors and former Navy SEALS Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

Five days after attack, the administration sent Susan Rice onto the Sunday news shows to describe what precipitated the assault. She relied on initial intelligence talking points that subsequently proved incorrect.

Deputy CIA Director Mike Morell told the House committee on Thursday that Susan Rice was provided with an unclassified version of events at the American mission, according to Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, a committee member.

The assessment concluded that a spontaneous protest over anti-Islam video, The Innocence of Muslims, had evolved into an attack on the American consulate, a description that Rice presented in the television interviews.

David Petraeus hoped that by testifying he would put an end to some of the wilder rumors following his resignation over reveal of his affair with Paula Broadwell.

“He did not like the conspiracies going around that somehow he had something to hide on Benghazi,” said retired Colonel Peter Mansoor, who served as David Petraeus’ executive officer in Iraq.

“I think his offer to testify crossed with the Congress’ request to him to testify. But anyway he looks forward to that.”

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Congressmen watched harrowing footage of the US ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, being dragged out of the consulate during the terror attack which killed him.

Members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees were shown a video of Chris Stevens being taken out of the building in Benghazi while it was attacked by radical Islamists on September 11.

The lawmakers watched the video during a hearing in which the acting director of the CIA told them that the administration’s mistaken statements on the causes of the raid were down to incorrect intelligence information.

The footage was shown as part of an attempt by the CIA to provide the fullest account yet of the deadly assault, which left Stevens and three other Americans dead.

It captured some of the last moments of Chris Stevens’ life, showing the attack on the consulate building as well as Stevens being removed from the building as he suffered from the injuries which would eventually kill him.

Mike Morell, the acting CIA director who took over for disgraced boss David Petraeus, told the committees that UN ambassador Susan Rice had been provided with an unclassified version of what happened during the deadly September attack in Libya that was incorrect

Mike Morell, the acting CIA director who took over for disgraced boss David Petraeus, told the committees that UN ambassador Susan Rice had been provided with an unclassified version of what happened during the deadly September attack in Libya that was incorrect

Senator Dan Coats told CNN the video was “combination of video from a surveillance camera and a drone”.

He added: “It gave us a good picture, from the surveillance standpoint, what was happening.”

Mike Morell, the acting CIA director who took over for disgraced boss David Petraeus, told the committees that UN ambassador Susan Rice had been provided with an unclassified version of what happened during the deadly September attack in Libya that was incorrect.

Emerging from the session, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said Michael Morell told the panel that Susan Rice was given an initial assessment that a spontaneous protest over an anti-Muslim video evolved into an attack on the consulate.

Susan Rice’s comments on national talk shows five days after the attack has drawn fierce criticism, with some Senate Republicans vowing to block her nomination if she is tapped to replace Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Adam Schiff said the ambassador’s interview remarks were based on the “best initial assessment”.

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With President Barack Obama secured for a second term, the Beltway is abuzz with chatter over who will end up where in his imminent cabinet reshuffle.

Sources are opining that the president is considering Senator John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) for the post of Secretary of Defense instead of Secretary of State, which has been thought to be the apple of the veteran senator’s eye.

Despite his deep-rooted longing for the post of chief diplomat, it is believed Barack Obama will select Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to fill the expected vacancy left when current Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, could soon announce her departure from Obama’s administration.

Hillary Clinton has insisted that she will be a one-term Secretary, fueling rumors she has her eye on a presidential run in 2016.

Susan E. Rice, 47, has been part of the coterie of Barack Obama advisers since the early days of his campaign for president in 2007.

But she has been on the receiving end of much criticism since she is believed to have been the driving force being the Obama administration’s initial choice to label the recent attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, in which U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed, as a violent protest as opposed to a planned terrorist attack.

Despite the negativity over her alleged influence and claims by at least one Republican senator, Senator Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) that she would have an “incredibly difficult time” being confirmed as head of the State Department in the senate, Barack Obama is expected to stand firm in his support for her nomination, sources have told The Washington Post.

Susan E. Rice, 47, has been part of the coterie of Barack Obama advisers since the early days of his campaign for president in 2007

Susan E. Rice, 47, has been part of the coterie of Barack Obama advisers since the early days of his campaign for president in 2007

“I cannot imagine promoting anybody associated with Benghazi at this point,” the Republican said on CBS’ Face The Nation on Sunday.

But Susan E. Rice was a shoo-in during her confirmation hearings for her post at the UN back in 2009, impressing both Democrats and Republicans alike with her grasp of foreign policy and world affairs.

So with Susan Rice rumored to be Hillary Clinton’s heir apparent, the conjecture is now that John F. Kerry would be the top choice for Defense.

Current Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, who had previously served as the Director of the CIA, assumed the role at the Pentagon after Robert Gates stepped down in July 2011.

Leon Panetta himself has said he doesn’t think he would remain in the post during Barack Obama’s second term but in a moment of candor told reporters “who the hell knows?” when he was asked about his future.

“It’s no secret that at some point I’d like to get back to California,” he said on Monday.

The Monterey native moved to DC to serve as a Congressman from 1977 to 1993 and was served as President Bill Clinton’s White House Chief of Staff from 1994 to 1997.

He later served as Director of the Office of Management and Budget from 1993–1994.

And with the personnel changes expected to soon come down the pipeline, Leon Panetta could soon have his wish fulfilled.

Though John Kerry has been the top name floated as a replacement for Leon Panetta, sources told The Post that Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and former undersecretary for policy at the Pentagon, Michele Flour­noy, have also been mentioned as contenders.

John Kerry, who is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, is expected to have earned a place among Barack Obama’s top brass – especially after his defense of the president’s national security record at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in September.

Barack Obama’s appointments are expected to be announced any day now though his press secretary, Jay Carney, remained tight lipped on any potential changes in his first press briefing since Obama’s reelection on November 9.

The President will hold a full press conference this coming Wednesday, in the White House’s East Room, where the president will take questions from the press and possibly announce major changes to his cabinet.

Libyan authorities have arrested some 50 people in connection with Tuesday deadly attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, the president of Libya’s interim assembly has said.

Mohamed Magarief told CBS News he had “no doubt” the attack was pre-planned.

That appears to contradict US envoy to the UN Susan Rice who told ABC that the evidence suggested it had been part of “spontaneous” protests.

US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other US consulate staff were killed.

They died when the consulate in Benghazi was set ablaze, in protests apparently inspired by demonstrations at the US embassy in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

It was part of a wave of violent protests in the Muslim world over an anti-Islam film made in the US.

Libyan authorities have arrested some 50 people in connection with Tuesday deadly attack on the US consulate in Benghazi

Libyan authorities have arrested some 50 people in connection with Tuesday deadly attack on the US consulate in Benghazi

Some of the suspects in last Tuesday’s violence in Benghazi were from outside Libya, Mohamed Magarief told CBS News.

“It was planned, definitely, it was planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago, and they were planning this criminal act since their arrival,” he said.

He said the suspects were connected to al-Qaeda, or its “affiliates and maybe sympathizers”.

“We don’t know what are the real intentions of these perpetrators,” he said.

“They entered Libya from different directions. Some of them definitely from Mali and Algeria.”

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has said in a statement the attack avenged the killing of Abu Yahya al-Libi – a Libyan-born al-Qaeda commander killed in June by a US drone strike in the North Waziristan-Afghan borderlands.

Susan Rice, meanwhile, told ABC that the the US’s “current best assessment” was that “this began as a spontaneous not a pre-meditated response” to the protests in Cairo.

“As that unfolded it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons, weapons that as you know in the wake of the revolution in Libya are quite common and accessible and then it evolved from there,” she added.

The Benghazi violence was followed by a string of attacks on US consulates, embassies and business interests across the Middle East and north Africa. British, Swiss, German and Dutch properties were also targeted.

Two people were killed during protests outside the US embassy in the Tunisian capital, Tunis on Friday, while three were killed in clashes in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

On Saturday, the US ordered all non-essential staff to leave Tunisia and Sudan, fearing further violence. The US had asked Sudan for permission to send troops to protect its Khartoum embassy, but the request was turned down.

A State Department statement also advised US citizens in Tunisia to leave by commercial flights and those in Sudan to “exercise caution at all times”.

The Canadian government announced on Sunday it was closing its embassies in Sudan, Libya and Egypt for the day as a precautionary measure.

The US and Canadian announcements came as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula called for fresh attacks against Western embassies, describing the recent unrest as “a great event”, and urging protesters to unite to “expel the embassies of America from the lands of the Muslims”, AP reports.

Meanwhile a man involved in producing the film – a low-budget, amateurish production called Innocence of Muslims – has been questioned by police in the US.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula has admitted his role in the film but investigators are trying to find out whether he was the internet user named “sambacile” who posted a clip of it online.

He was freed on probation in June 2011 on condition that he did not use the internet without authorization or assume aliases.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was released by police after questioning and may have gone into hiding, the Associated Press reports.