Susan Rice emerges as top contender to replace Clinton

Susan Rice, the tough-talking US ambassador to the UN, is emerging as the frontrunner to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who is expected to leave the post of top American diplomat early next year.

Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon are also in line to succeed Clinton.

While all the three are confidants of US President Barack Obama, Rice, 47, is said to be his most favourite. Obama has given Rice the status of a Cabinet Minister.

Rice will be the second African-American woman to hold the position -- the first being Condoleeza Rice under George W Bush.

The name of Bill Burns, the Deputy Secretary of State, is also doing the rounds in some circles.

However, Republican Senators have been very critical of Rice, after her comments on Libya that the attack on the US Consulate Benghazi was a result of mob violence agitated against an anti-Islam movie. However, the Obama Administration determined that this was a terrorist attack.

"Everybody knows that Susan Rice is a possibility, but would have some difficulties in confirmation, given the controversy over what happened in Libya. It's anybody’s guess. The decisions of a single person are always very difficult to predict," Daniel Serwer, Professor, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, told foreign journalists.

Hillary, 65, plans to leave the post as Secretary of State at the end of the first term of President Obama, a senior State Department official said on Wednesday.

"I don't think the secretary's plans have changed," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said on Wednesday.

Rice is known for her strong personality and passionate defence of Obama’s foreign policy at the UN Security Council.

She was an advocate of US aid to Libyan rebels who revolted against then-dictator Muammar Gaddafi and helped win crucial UNSC support for a resolution authorising international intervention in Libya.

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