US President Obama backs Hillary Clinton over e-mail controversy

WASHINGTON (AFP) - United States President Barack Obama on Saturday cautiously threw his weight behind his former top diplomat Hillary Clinton, as she battles a fallout over her use of a private e-mail account while heading the State Department.

Mr Obama told CBS News he only learnt this week, after a New York Times report, of Mrs Clinton's practice of conducting her official e-mail business from a personal account on a private e-mail server connected to her New York home.

But the President also stressed the need for transparency. "The policy of my administration is to encourage transparency, which is why my e-mails, the BlackBerry I carry around, all those records are available and archived," Mr Obama said, in excerpts of an interview to be aired on the Face The Nation programme on Sunday. "I'm glad that Hillary's instructed that those e-mails about official business need to be disclosed."

His comments came amid mounting pressure, particularly from Republican foes, for Mrs Clinton to release all of her e-mail correspondence, which she said she was asking the State Department to do. "I think that the fact that she is putting them forward will allow us to make sure that people have the information they need," Mr Obama said.

In the face of accusations that her move was inappropriate, Mr Obama defended Mrs Clinton's overall record.

"Let me just say that Hillary Clinton is and has been an outstanding public servant. She was a great secretary of state for me," he said.

The House of Representatives panel investigating the deadly attacks on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya said it had issued subpoenas for Mrs Clinton's e-mails, prompting accusations by Democrats that Republican leaders were "targeting secretary Clinton for political reasons".