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Panetta defends military response in Libya attack

By By DONNA CASSATA and RICHARD LARDNER

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the speed of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya last September kept U.S. armed forces from responding in time to save the four Americans who were killed.

Panetta is making what's likely his final appearance before Congress on Thursday. He told a Senate panel that the military prepares for a range of contingencies, but there were no specific signs of an imminent attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

Panetta says the raid was not a prolonged assault the military could have ended, but rather, two short attacks six hours apart. He insists the government spared no effort to save lives.

Panetta is wrapping up a Washington career of some 40 years.

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