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Washington • A Brigham Young University graduate tapped by President Barack Obama to be the U.S. ambassador to Libya told a Senate panel on Tuesday that, if she is confirmed, security would be foremost in her mind.
The nomination of Deborah Kay Jones, a veteran diplomat who previously served as ambassador to Kuwait, has been held up because of the ongoing investigation into the Sept. 11, 2012, attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed then-Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
"An ambassador doesn't wake up without considering security; that just goes part and parcel with the job," Jones told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"I am deeply conscious of the responsibility that I would have as chief of mission of the safety and security of the approximately 4,000 Americans residing in Libya and that of those officials attached to our mission there," she added later.
Jones, who has spent 30 years in America's foreign diplomatic ranks, said it was important to get an ambassador on the ground in Libya to work with the country to promote a stable democracy. It's unclear, though, how long it will take. Jones' confirmation has been delayed since mid-March.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, is leading a charge among House Republicans to probe the attacks in Benghazi and the Obama administration's response and will hold a hearing Wednesday with witnesses he says will show the White House and State Department didn't do enough to protect Stevens or try to help the consulate while it was under attack.
The nominee, who is from New Mexico, told the Foreign Relations Committee that her first response when in place in Libya would be to help fill a "security vacuum" now allowing militias to ravage parts of the country in a situation that could lead to involvement of al-Qaida.
"Libya's national garden requires tender caring during this important period," she said. "I am well aware of the unique challenges I will face in the current environment."