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Rice withdraws from secretary of state nomina -

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EMILY BOURKE: The US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, has unexpectedly withdrawn her name from consideration for the top job of secretary of state in the face of relentless opposition from Republicans.

Controversy embroiled her potential nomination after she made inaccurate remarks in the aftermath of the deadly attack on the American mission in Libya.

North America correspondent Jane Cowan reports.

UN SPEAKER: Will those in favour of the draft resolution contained in document S/2012/249 please raise their hand.

JANE COWAN: She's the face of the United States at the UN but lately Susan Rice had been eying a promotion as the favourite to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.

With Republicans gunning for her though, Susan Rice has suddenly taken herself out of contention.

JOURNALIST: Big news right now, the UN ambassador from the United States, Susan Rice, withdrawing her name.

JANE COWAN: The ambassador says she's saddened by the partisan politics surrounding her possible nomination but wants to avoid what was shaping up to be a lengthy, disruptive and costly Senate nomination fight.

Susan Rice says it wasn't worth the distraction from pressing national and international priorities.

Her potential nomination became fraught because of comments she made in the aftermath of the attack that killed the US ambassador to Libya.

Susan Rice mistakenly attributed the violence to spontaneous protests rather than terrorism, something Republicans said was an effort to mislead the public in the midst of the president's re-election campaign.

Barack Obama has staunchly defended Susan Rice, most notably in these remarks.

BARACK OBAMA: If senator McCain and senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me.

JANE COWAN: The president today accepted Susan Rice's decision but said he deeply regretted the unfair and misleading attacks on her.

Political commentator Jonathan Alter.

JONATHAN ALTER: I think it was shameless. I think to blame her for Benghazi was ridiculous.

JANE COWAN: It's a win for Republicans who've managed to scuttle Susan Rice's nomination before it even got off the ground, despite not having the majority in the Senate to ultimately block her appointment.

Jonathan Alter says the ambassador just lost the backing of too many senators.

JONATHAN ALTER: If you're starting to wobble with people like Susan Collins who's a moderate Republican and your support is cratering even among a relatively small group of senators, your nomination becomes politically untenable.

JANE COWAN: But some see more sinister forces at play.

Michael Eric Dyson is a Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University.

MICHAEL ERIC EYSON: We know collectively what's going on here. We don't want to name what this is. We've been trying to pretend we're being kind here but we know that she is one of the highest ranking African-American people here and a female. The assault upon her intelligence stands apart from any consideration of race or gender but when you throw race and gender in, the consideration of intelligence becomes even more acutely, you know, resonant here. So I think that we have to acknowledge that.

JANE COWAN: Veteran Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile thinks gender also had something to do with it.

DONNA BRAZILE: They had the knives out for Susan, a whole bunch of people. It was just unfair. This is the old boy's network, this is how it operates. They don't want women that continue to step up the ladder. This is what they do, they pull the chair from underneath you.

JANE COWAN: The former Bush speechwriter David Frum disagrees.

DAVID FRUM: I don't think that's what's going on here. What is going on is there other kinds of politics. There is the need for a Benghazi sacrifice, there is the president's need to protect other people in his administration who maybe he cares about more.

JANE COWAN: As for the president's cabinet, the expectation now is that Senator John Kerry will succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.

He's known to want the job but senator Kerry was among the first to react to Susan Rice's withdrawal, vouching for her character and ability.

It mightn't be the end for Susan Rice - she could still be a possibility to become the president's national security advisor.

This is Jane Cowan in Washington for The World Today.