Senate panel approves U.S. ambassador to Libya

WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday approved President Barack Obama’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to Libya, a post that has been vacant since insurgents attacked the diplomatic mission in Benghazi last September, killing Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

With little discussion, the panel on a voice vote approved Deborah Kay Jones, a career diplomat who has served in Kuwait, Argentina, Syria, Iraq and Turkey.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the committee, praised Jones and spoke of the imperative of filling the job amid increasing lawlessness in Libya. On Monday, a deadly car bomb exploded near a hospital in Benghazi and officials gave conflicting numbers on the death toll.

At her confirmation hearing earlier this month, Jones promised to work to ensure sufficient security at U.S. facilities, saying the ambassador was the principle security officer and vowing to simply pick up the phone and call in Washington if she felt security was lax.

If confirmed by the full Senate, Jones would take over an ambassadorship that has been vacant for nearly eight months.

The Obama administration’s response to the attacks has been the subject of a long-running and bitter dispute with congressional Republicans. The GOP has accused the administration of trying to cover up details of the assault and its aftermath.

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