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Susan Rice has announced she is withdrawing her name from consideration as U.S. secretary of state.

In a letter to President Barack Obama, Rice said she was withdrawing from the process in the face of what promised to be a difficult Senate confirmation hearing.

Rice has faced questions about comments she made days after the September 11 assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Obama issued a statement saying he had accepted her decision and is grateful she will continue as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

U.S. media reports say John Kerry -- a Democratic senator from Massachusetts who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2004 -- is now the likely choice to be the nation's next top diplomat when Hillary Clinton steps down in January.

Based on reporting by Reuters, dpa, and AFP