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US had wanted Benghazi mission open through '12

WASHINGTON--Newly released government documents show U.S. officials intended to keep open a mission in Benghazi, Libya, for at least the rest of this year in hopes of having a “calming effect” on the region, before the building was overrun and burned by militants last month.

Locals in Benghazi wanted the Americans to stay permanently in the eastern Libyan city, the cradle of last year's revolution against Moammar Gadhafi, according to one memo written by the former top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, Jeffrey Feltman.

The documents were made public on Friday by the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led by Republican Darrell Issa. It has been investigating the Sept. 11 assault on the U.S. mission in Benghazi that took the lives of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Other lawmakers raised more questions about the aftermath of the Benghazi events. The leading Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee questioned why U.S. spy agencies and government spokesmen initially played down suspected al-Qaida links to the Sept. 11 attack on the mission there.

In public statements soon after the Sept. 11 attack, administration officials said it could have been a spontaneous protest against an anti-Muslim video made in California. Administration officials ultimately declared the Benghazi incident to be a “deliberate and organized terrorist attack” carried out by “extremists” affiliated with or sympathetic to al-Qaida.

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