Clinton and her Peruvian counterpart, Rafael
Clinton and her Peruvian counterpart, RafaelAFP photo

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took the blame on Monday for the fiasco over the killing of the American ambassador to Libya last month to Libya and cleared President Barack Obama of any responsibility.

Speaking three weeks before what the polls say is a “too close to call” election, Clinton tried to take the heat off of Obama, whose foreign policies have been under fierce attack by Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

"I take responsibility," she said, according to the news networks CNN and Fox, which interviewed her during a visit to the Peruvian capital Lima.

"I'm in charge of the State Department -- 60,000 plus people all over the world, 275 posts," Clinton added, making sure to state that the attack in Libya that left four Americans dead was not the responsibility of the president.

Clinton has nothing to lose politically by taking the blame because she has announced she will step down as Secretary of State next year, regardless of the outcome of the election.

On September 11, exactly 11 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, heavily-armed militants stormed the U.S. consulate compound in Benghazi and fired on a nearby annex, killing the four Americans, including the US ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.

In the immediate aftermath, Obama administration officials said they appeared to be linked to protests in the Muslim world against a film shot by American -based activists and deemed insulting to the Islamic faith, AFP reported.

But it has since emerged that the prime suspects in the attack, now seen as a deliberate assault, are Islamist militants with links to Al-Qaeda.

State Department officials testified at a congressional hearing last week that requests for additional security in Benghazi were turned down by their superiors within Clinton's department.

Clinton said the buck stopped with her on security decisions and downplayed initial communications errors, saying there is always "confusion" in the first hours after an attack.

Clinton also again defended U.S. officials against charges that they repeatedly changed their story about the events of September 11.

"As time has gone on, that information has changed. We've gotten more detail, but that's not surprising," she told CNN. "That always happens, and what I want to avoid is some kind of political gotcha or blame game.”

Clinton’s mea culpa may dampen attacks on President Barack Obama’s foreign policies in a crucial debate Tuesday.

Several supporters of Romney have gone so far as to allege a cover-up over the attack on the embassy in Libya and the murder of the ambassador.

In the vice-presidential debate last week, Romney's running mate Paul Ryan repeatedly said the unrest in the Middle East showed Obama had mishandled the Arab Spring and that his foreign policy was "unraveling."

Vice President Joe Biden declared the White House had not been told that the Benghazi mission had requested more guards -- a defense which Clinton's statement appeared to support.

In the hours after the September 11 attack, it was Romney who came under fire for racing to condemn the administration and score political points as smoke was still rising over the Benghazi compound.

But, since then, attention has switched to Obama's White House and State Department, with opponents demanding to know why the administration initially blamed protesters and why there was so little security in Benghazi.