Rice to meet US senators in bid to succeed Clinton

Updated 27 November 2012
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Rice to meet US senators in bid to succeed Clinton

WASHINGTON: UN Ambassador Susan Rice is meeting with key lawmakers in what could be her final pitch for their support if she is nominated to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as the next US secretary of state.
The discussions, beginning Tuesday, will focus on her much-criticized explanations of the Sept. 11 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the US ambassador and three other Americans, officials said, but it’s also clearly an audition for America’s top diplomatic job.
Despite lingering questions over her comments five days after the Benghazi attack, Rice has emerged as the clear front-runner on a short list of candidates to succeed Clinton, who is expected to step down soon. Sen. John Kerry is seen as Rice’s closest alternative. But despite a softening of Republican opposition to Rice over the weekend, she still has work to do to ensure that enough Republican senators are willing to back her potential nomination.
Rice’s series of meetings on Capitol Hill this week will be a critical test both for Republicans and the administration, which must gauge whether Rice has enough support to merit a nomination.
Assessing the prospects for Rice before President Barack Obama makes any announcement would avoid the embarrassment of a protracted fight with the Senate early in the president’s second term and the possible failure of the nominee.
According to congressional aides and administration officials, Rice is expected to meet with small groups of lawmakers who will press her on her since-retracted description of the Benghazi attack as the byproduct of an angry protest over a film made in the US ridiculing Islam. She’ll be joined by acting CIA Director Michael Morell in the meetings.
A senior Senate aide said the administration was sounding out moderate Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee such as Sen. Bob Corker, who is in line to become the panel’s top Republican next year.
Rice is scheduled to meet with Sen. John McCain, her most vocal critic on Capitol Hill, and Sen. Kelly Ayotte. Both are members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
During an interview Monday, McCain said he would ask Rice “the same questions I’ve been talking about on every talk show in America.” Asked whether he thinks she’s still unfit for secretary of state and what he was hoping for, McCain interrupted and said, “I’m not hoping for anything. She asked to see me and I agreed to see her.”
On television news talk shows the weekend following the Libya attack, Rice was given talking points that described the attack as growing out of a spontaneous protest against the film, even though the Obama administration had known for days that it was a militant assault.
Republicans called her nomination doomed, leading to a vigorous defense of her by Obama in his first postelection news conference. Since then, Republican lawmakers have softened their views. McCain, who said earlier this month that would he do everything in his power to scuttle a Rice nomination, said on Sunday that he was willing to hear her out before making a decision.
Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had issued a statement highly critical of Rice on the day of Obama’s news conference. He indicated Monday that perhaps she didn’t know what had transpired in Benghazi on the day of the attack.
“I assumed she had full knowledge of everything that went on. I’m not at all convinced of that now. She very well could have been thrown under the bus,” Inhofe said in an interview. He said Rice hadn’t requested a meeting but he would be glad to meet with her.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that the administration appreciated McCain’s latest comments about Rice but wouldn’t say whether the president saw them as an opening to make the nomination. “Ambassador Rice has done an excellent job at the United Nations and is highly qualified for any number of positions,” Carney said.
Several diplomats currently serving with Rice said that what she lacked in Clinton’s star power, she could make up for with a blunter approach that demands attention and has marked her tenure thus far at the United Nations.
Rice, who at 48 is relatively young, has played the role of “conscience of the administration” on human rights and detainee issues and would bring “a certain edge” to the secretary of state job, according to one colleague who has dealt with Rice on multiple issues over the past three years.
She has been known to covet the secretary of state job for years but was passed over for Clinton in 2009.
Since arriving in New York, Rice can point to a series of diplomatic achievement, notably the NATO-led air campaign that toppled Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and tougher sanctions against Iran and North Korea over their nuclear programs.
But Rice has also been criticized — along with other Security Council leaders — for the failure of the UN’s most powerful body to take action to end the 19-month civil war in Syria.
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Associated Press writers Matthew Lee in Washington and Edith M. Lederer in New York contributed to this report.


Almost $30 million seized in raids linked to Malaysian ex-PM

Updated 14 min 16 sec ago
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Almost $30 million seized in raids linked to Malaysian ex-PM

  • The money was seized along with 284 boxes containing designer handbags, as well as watches and jewelry from a condominium in Kuala Lumpur
  • Public disgust at allegations of corruption swirling around Najib was a major factor for the loss

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian police said Friday they found cash amounting to almost $30 million in a raid on a luxury apartment as they probed corruption allegations swirling around ousted leader Najib Razak.
The money was seized along with 284 boxes containing designer handbags, as well as watches and jewelry from a condominium in Kuala Lumpur, which was raided along with Najib’s home and other sites last week.
Najib’s coalition was thrown out of power for the first time in over six decades in the May 9 poll, defeated by a reformist alliance headed by his former mentor Mahathir Mohamad.
Public disgust at allegations of corruption swirling around Najib was a major factor for the loss, with the ex-leader, his family and cronies accused of looting billions of dollars from sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.
There has been much speculation about what the seized goods consisted of and their value after five trucks were reportedly brought in to help move the vast stash.
Giving an update, the police’s head of commercial crime Amar Singh said: “From the money found, there were 26 currencies, the total amount as of yesterday is 114 million ($28.6 million).”
The money was found in 35 bags while another 37 bags contained watches and jewelry, he told a press conference. The value of other items will be calculated later, he said.
The seizure of the luxury goods added to public scorn of Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor, long reviled by Malaysians for her perceived haughty demeanour and reported vast collection of designer bags, clothing and jewelry.
Her love of overseas shopping trips, as middle class Malaysians struggle with rising living costs, added to a sense of spreading, deeply-entrenched rot in the country’s long-ruling elite.
The couple’s fall from grace has been swift and hard.
They have been barred from leaving the country and the ex-premier has been questioned by anti-graft investigators over claims 1MDB money ended up in his bank accounts, and looks likely to be charged.
Najib and the fund deny any wrongdoing.