Clinton defends Obama on Libya, says she would stay through beginning of second term

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in an interview with ABC

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday defended President Obama's handling of recent military strikes in Libya, denying reports that she persuaded him to commit to military action there, and calling his decision to authorize involvement a "thoughtful process."

Clinton also said she would keep her post as secretary of state through the beginning of the next term, in order to ensure a smooth transition.

Clinton, who said earlier this month that she would leave the White House after her first term, said would realistically end up serving into Mr. Obama's second term, pending his election.

"I will stay until the beginning of the next term, because I know it takes a while for people to get appointed and confirmed," she said in an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer that aired on Tuesday. "I mean, obviously, there needs to be a seamless transition with whomever President Obama decides to appoint after he is reelected, which I am confident he will be."

Clinton also called allegations that she had been the key voice urging for the authorization of attacks on Libya "part of a storyline that needs to be corrected."

"I think it was a very thoughtful process," Clinton said, of Mr. Obama's decision to authorize the strikes. "I'm not going to characterize anyone because it was a decision that was made, and the decision speaks for itself."

She also expressed confidence in the international military mission, and said she had heard of "people close to" Qaddafi sniffing out an exit strategy.

"We've heard about other people close to him reaching out to people that they know around the world -- Africa, the Middle East, Europe, North America, beyond -- saying what do we do? How do we get out of this? What happens next?" Clinton said. "I'm not aware that he personally has reached out, but I do know that people allegedly on his behalf have been reaching out."

Clinton acknowledged the possibility that "some of it is theater," but added that "some of it, we think, is exploring. You know, what are my options, where could I go, what could I do. And we would encourage that."

She added that she had heard reports that up to two of Qaddafi's sons had been killed in recent days, but emphasized that "evidence is not sufficient" to issue a formal confirmation. She also denied reports that one of them had been killed by U.S. forces.

"We hear many different things, but we know it's not us," she said.

Reiterating the White House line that Qaddafi's removal is not the mission's purpose, Clinton declined to speculate as to whether or not he would be able to retain power.

"I don't want to make any predictions because we are taking this one step at a time," she said.

"Now obviously, if we want to see a stable, peaceful, hopefully someday democratic Libya, it is highly unlikely that can be accomplished if he stays in power as he is," she added.