U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan E. Rice met Wednesday with key Republican senators, but her effort to allay questions about how the Obama administration initially described the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was no more successful than it had been Tuesday.
“I still have many questions that remain unanswered,” Sen. Susan M. Collins of Maine told reporters after she and fellow Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee met Mrs. Rice, who is widely tipped as a possible nominee to be the next secretary of state.
Mr. Corker is in line to be the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next year. If President Obama taps Mrs. Rice to head the State Department, the committee would hold confirmation hearings on her nomination.
Republicans have criticized Mrs. Rice for insisting five days after the military-style assault that it had grown out of a spontaneous protest against an anti-Muslim video. U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack.
Mrs. Rice has said that her comments to several Sunday TV talk shows on Sept. 16 were based on unclassified talking points prepared by the U.S. intelligence community.
Tuesday, she acknowledged that the talking points and the initial intelligence assessments on which they were based were wrong.
But that acknowledgment failed to assuage the concerns of her fiercest Republican critics — Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, all members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Mrs. Collins, widely regarded as a moderate Republican, said she would need more information before she would agree to consider supporting a possible Rice nomination to replace Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has said she wants to step down.
“I continue to be troubled by the fact that the U.N. ambassador chose to play what was essentially a political role” at the height of the election campaign by appearing as the administration’s spokeswoman about Benghazi, Mrs. Collins said.