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John Kerry to Congress: Middle East peace effort is urgent

In his first congressional hearing as secretary of State, John Kerry tells lawmakers that, after the Benghazi attacks, the US must fortify security for diplomats, press for a two-state solution in the Middle East.

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Secretary of State John Kerry testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee at a hearing on the State Department's fiscal 2014 foreign affairs budget on Wednesday.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

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Seven months after the deadly terrorist attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, the State Department is proposing hundreds of millions of dollars in new security spending – tacit acknowledgment that some of the most effective security enhancements for America’s overseas diplomats are still months or years away.

Secretary of State John Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday that the department’s proposed fiscal 2014 budget calls for $4.4 billion “to fortify our worldwide security protection and improve our overseas infrastructure.”

In his first congressional testimony as secretary of State, Mr. Kerry also underscored his commitment to pressing forward in the decades-old quest for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Unlike his predecessor, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Kerry has made reaching a peace accord a top goal of his tenure. “We have some period of time – a year to year-and-a-half to two years – or it’s over," he said, underscoring the urgency of his Middle East effort.

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