FILE - This June 7, 2012 file photo shows U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice listening during a news conference at the UN. Republican opposition to Rice's possible nomination to be secretary of state began to crack Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012, as Sen. John McCain said she was "not the problem" in the White House's explanation about the Sept. 11 attack in Libya and he could be persuaded to swing behind her potential promotion. McCain's comments provide an opening for the administration, which struggled mightily in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 election to tamp down speculation of a cover-up involving the attack against the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

WASHINGTON — The top Republican to oppose a nomination of Susan Rice as the next secretary of state softened his opposition and said Sunday he was open to hearing her explain why she declared the burning of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, was part of a protest rather than a terrorist attack.

"I'd give everyone the benefit of explaining their position and the actions that they took," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on "Fox News Sunday." "I'd be glad to have the opportunity to discuss these issues with her."

Also Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a critic of how the administration handled fallout from the Benghazi attack, said President Barack Obama more than Rice is responsible for her television comments claiming the Sept. 11 Libyan attack was a spontaneous eruption from protesters angry over an anti-Islam video.

"I blame the president above all others," Graham said on ABC's "This Week."

But if Obama sends Rice's nomination to the Senate for confirmation as secretary of state, Graham said, "There will be a lot of questions asked of her about this event and others."

Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has been highly praised by Obama in his first term, and his White House has signaled that the president is considering her to replace outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Rice appeared on several Sunday talk shows after the attack and said that the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, were prompted by the video. Republicans suggested the administration was trying to cover up the incident.

Last week, Rice said she had relied "solely and squarely" on preliminary information provided by U.S. intelligence officials.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut who caucuses with Democrats, said Rice should be allowed to explain herself further before being summarily rejected by the Senate. "I think we ought to find out before we decide on whether she's a good or bad public servant," Lieberman said on CNN's "State of the Union."

On the House side, Rep. Peter King of New York, the Republican chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, both praised and criticized Rice. "I think Susan Rice has done an effective job as U.N. ambassador, especially on issues such as North Korea," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "But on this, she is wrong."

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