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Mr. al-Magariaf called the attacks “pre-planned.”

“Based on the best information we have to date,” Mrs. Rice responded, the attack “began spontaneously in Benghazi as a reaction” to protests against the video.

“We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or pre-planned,” she said.

Mr. Hicks said that when he heard that, “My jaw hit the floor. … I’ve never been as embarrassed in my life, in my career, as on that day.

“The spokesperson of the most powerful country in the world has basically said that the president of Libya is either a liar or doesn’t know what he is talking about,” he said. “[Mr. al-Magariaf] has just lost face in front of not only his own people, but the world.”

• Guy Taylor contributed to this report.