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FBI agents have still not been granted permission to visit the consulate building where the American ambassador to Libya was killed, three weeks after the attack by militants in the eastern city of Benghazi.
By Richard Spencer, Middle East Correspondent
7:46PM BST 03 Oct 2012
An FBI team was dispatched to Libya within days of the attack, in which three other Americans died. But they have been forced to remain in Tripoli as American and Libyan officials argue over the terms under which the two sides will co-operate in the investigation.
The consulate building itself and the accommodation annexe which also came under attack have been left largely unsecured.
“We are getting ready for the FBI team to go to Benghazi and meet with our team, start joint investigations”, the deputy foreign minister, Mohammed Abdel Aziz, said on Tuesday.
He had just met Elizabeth Jones, a US assistant secretary of state, sent to Tripoli to negotiate the issue. “We are now in the context of [granting] written permission,” he said.
Benghazi’s chief prosecutor, Saleh Adam Mohammed, told the Daily Telegraph more than two weeks ago that he was expecting the FBI team to arrive within two days, and said the Libyan authorities fully intended to co-operate with their American counterparts. There has been as yet no explanation for the delay.
However, the failure to get an FBI team on the ground has added to the pressure facing the Obama administration over its handling of the attack. Susan Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, claimed for several days that the assault on the consulate was a demonstration that had got out of hand, despite early intelligence reports and eye witness accounts both discounting that and suggesting a direct, planned attack.
A senior Republican congressman, Darrell Issa, also said that requests for increased security in advance of the attacks had been ignored by the administration.
Officials are now briefing American newspapers that they are compiling dossiers on individual militants thought to have been involved in the attack and weighing up possible responses, including drone strikes and special operations raids, as well as joint operations with the Libyans.
Unilateral American action would risk a backlash, but if the Libyans are unable to arrest those responsible Mr Obama would find it hard not to act.
Hillary Clinton meanwhile said she would not rest until all questions about the attack had been answered.
“There are continuing questions about what exactly happened in Benghazi on that night three weeks ago and we will not rest until we answer those questions, until we track down the terrorists who killed our people,” Mrs Clinton said.
“Active efforts are also underway to determine who was responsible and bring them to justice. We have already formed an accountability review board.”
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