A leading contender to replace Hillary Clinton as US Secretary Of State has withdrawn her name.
Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations and a close confidante of President Barack Obama, says she is withdrawing to avoid a lengthy, costly and disruptive Senate confirmation battle.
Ms Rice has faced questions about comments she made days after the fatal assault on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, which she said was the result of a spontaneous demonstration.
Extremists linked to Al-Qaeda are now blamed for the attack and Republicans say the Obama administration misled the US public as it did not want to own up to a terror attack weeks before the presidential election.
Ms Rice's move throws the race to succeed Mrs Clinton in January next year, who has said she will not serve in Obama's second term, wide open, AFP reports.
Democratic Senator John Kerry will now be seen as the hot favourite for the post, though officials say no announcements on Obama's second term national security team are imminent.