Obama tapped Kerry for secretary of state before Rice quit

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - United States (US) President Barack Obama offered Senator John Kerry the job of secretary of state a week before Ms Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations (UN), withdrew her name from contention, the Boston Globe reported on Friday.

"He called me, actually a week before Susan got out of the thing," Mr Kerry told the newspaper, offering a timeline earlier than previously reported.

"He called me and said, 'You're my choice. I want you to do this.' He asked me to keep it quiet. I did. I sat on it," the newspaper quoted him as saying.

Ms Rice, a top aide to Mr Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign, withdrew her name from consideration as secretary of state on Dec 13 in the face of what promised to be a contentious Senate confirmation battle.

A spokesman for Mr Kerry was not immediately available for comment on his reported remarks.

There has been widespread speculation that Mr Kerry was Mr Obama's second choice for the top diplomatic job. The White House has said Ms Rice's decision to withdraw from contention was her own.

White House spokesman Jay Carney on Friday declined to comment on the newspaper report.

"I'm not going to get into private conversations between the president and... a senator or a Cabinet member," he said.

Ms Rice had drawn heavy fire from Republicans for remarks she made in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

"I am highly honoured to be considered by you for appointment as secretary of state," Ms Rice said in a letter to Mr Obama released on Dec 13. "I am fully confident that I could serve our country ably and effectively in that role. However, if nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly."

The US Mission to the UN, where Ms Rice works, had no immediate reaction to the Boston Globe report.

Mr Kerry, a five-term US senator from Massachusetts and the losing Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, was easily confirmed on Tuesday, with the Senate voting 94-3 in favor.

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