Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said late Monday that the protection of US diplomats was her job as she took the blame for the security failure that led to the deaths of four Americans last month in Libya, dpa reported.
"I take responsibility," she told the US-based broadcaster CNN while travelling in Lima, Peru.
The attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, where US ambassador Chris Stevens was among the dead, was first blamed on an angry mob. Recent revelations showed that there was no crowd and raised questions about the political response to the incident by President Barack Obama's administration as the United States prepares for November 6 presidential and congressional elections.
State Department officials testified last week in Congress that requests by US diplomatic staff in Libya for stepped-up security went unheeded in the months before the September 11 attack, which has now been blamed on militants possibly linked to terrorist networks, including al-Qaeda.
Clinton called for restraint in Washington while an investigation of the Benghazi slayings was under way. "I want to avoid some kind of political gotcha," she told CNN.
Clinton pointed out that neither Obama nor White House officials are involved in decisions over diplomatic security.
She said the State Department must continue working in countries with serious security risks.
"We cannot retreat," Clinton said.