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May 12, 2013 5:53 PM by ASSOCIATED PRESS

Pickering says he wanted to testify

WASHINGTON (AP) - Former ambassador Thomas Pickering says he was willing to testify last week to a House panel looking into the attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya last year -- but that he was blocked from doing so.

Pickering, on NBC's "Meet the Press" today, took issue with a claim from the committee chairman, Republican Darrell Issa (EYE'-suh), who said Pickering "refused to come before our committee."

Sitting next to Issa, Pickering responded, "That is not true." He said in a separate interview that he had asked, through the White House, to appear -- and that he could have answered many of the questions lawmakers raised. Those questions included whether U.S. military forces could have saved Americans if they had dispatched F-16 fighter jets to the consulate.

Pickering and former Joint Chiefs chairman Mike Mullen produced a report critical of security in Benghazi, but Pickering says then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton wasn't to blame.

Meanwhile, there's still a focus on the talking points used by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice in the days after the attack, when she said it stemmed from a protest over an anti-Islamic video. A series of emails between the State Department and the CIA led to the erroneous description. And Republican Sen. John McCain tells ABC it was a "cover-up." He's again calling for a select committee to investigate.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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