US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice is set to become President Barack Obama's national security adviser after the disappointment of being forced out of contention for secretary of state, it is being reported.
According to The Washington Post, Rice has emerged as the "far and away" favourite to replace incumbent Thomas Donilon later this year.
If Sunday's report proves true, it would mark a speedy political rehabilitation for the senior diplomat, whose bid to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton in the State Department was derailed under a barrage of Republican criticism over her potential nomination.
Having been widely tipped to become Obama's second-term secretary of state, Rice was forced to pull out from consideration in December amid complaints over her handling of the Benghazi consulate attack in which four Americans, including ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed.
Rice had initially suggested during TV interviews that the assault was sparked by a demonstration over a US-made anti-Muslim film. She later acknowledged that this assessment was wrong and that the attack, coinciding with the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, had been mounted by al-Qaeda-linked groups.
In a subsequent inquiry, former CIA director David Petraeus told congressional hearings that Rice was not aware of the terrorist link initially, having been handed a set of talking points that pointed towards an angry mob as being responsible.
But scenting a major political scalp, leading Republicans, including senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, threatened to block her nomination and piled on pressure for the White House to withdraw her name.
In the event, Rice removed herself from the running, writing to Obama asking him to no longer consider her in the face of a "lengthy, disruptive and costly" nomination.
The bruising encounter had led some to conclude that Rice would no longer be in contention for a high-profile appointment.
But The Washington Post cited an administration official "familiar with the president's thinking" as suggesting she was likely to be in the White House inner-circle by year's end and was very much in Obama's thinking for his national security team.