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Clinton pledges full accounting of deadly Benghazi attack

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attends a news conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing September 5, 2012. REUTERS/Feng
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attends a news conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing September 5, 2012. REUTERS/Feng

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday vowed to pursue a full accounting of the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi "wherever that leads," but cautioned that it could take time for a complete picture to emerge.

"There are continuing questions about what exactly happened in Benghazi on that night three weeks ago. And we will not rest until we answer those questions and until we track down the terrorists who killed our people," Clinton said in an appearance with Kazakhstan's visiting foreign minister.

"The men and women who serve this country as diplomats deserve no less than a full and accurate accounting, wherever that leads, and I am committed to seeking that for them and for those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation."

Clinton's comments followed a demand by two Republican lawmakers this week for more information about the September 11 attack, which they said occurred after Washington repeatedly turned down requests from Americans in Libya for more security at the Benghazi consulate.

U.S. Representatives Darrell Issa and Jason Chaffetz also said that the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold an October 10 hearing on the security situation leading up to the Benghazi attack, which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other U.S. government personnel.

Issa wrote to Clinton on Wednesday to request the testimony of two witnesses at next week's hearing. They are Eric Nordstrom, who was a regional security officer based in Libya from September 2011 to June 2012, and Charlene Lamb, who is deputy assistant secretary of state for international programs, a committee aide said. He added that more witnesses were expected to be called.

Two Republican senators, Bob Corker and Johnny Isakson, also wrote to Clinton on Wednesday to repeat their demand that she send Congress all communications from U.S. diplomats in Libya relating to the security situation before the attack, including any cables from Stevens.

Debate over whether the Obama administration was caught unprepared by an assault by militant groups has become U.S. election-year fodder.

Republicans have criticized initial statements by administration officials, including U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, who suggested the attacks were precipitated by anger over an anti-Islam online video.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that the U.S. government received about a dozen intelligence reports within hours of the attack suggesting involvement by organized militant groups. Despite that, the Obama administration for nearly two weeks emphasized the role of the video.

Clinton noted that the State Department had named an "accountability review board" to investigate attack, and that she had urged the group "to move as quickly as possible without sacrificing accuracy."

"I am aware too that many people are eager for answers. So am I ... and no one wants the answers more than we do here at the department," Clinton said.

"Over the course of this review, there will naturally be a number of statements made, some of which will be borne out and some of which will not. So let's establish all the facts before we jump to any conclusions and let's do so so that we can get to the bottom of what did happen," she said. (Reporting By Andrew Quinn; editing by Sandra Maler and Mohammad Zargham)

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