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Obama assumes responsibility for Libya consulate attack

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Tuesday he was "ultimately responsible" for the safety and security of the four Americans killed in last month's attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.

"I'm the president and I'm always responsible," Obama said during a high-stakes debate with Republican rival Mitt Romney at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. just three weeks before Election Day.

The September 11 killings of the U.S. ambassador and three colleagues in assaults on the consulate in Benghazi have become a flashpoint in the 2012 election campaign, with Republicans seizing on the issue to accuse Obama of failed leadership.

Obama repeated his vow to hunt down those behind the attack but he also slammed Romney for his early criticism of the administration's response before the full extent of the casualties was known.

(Reporting By Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Eric Walsh)