U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice met Tuesday with three key Republican senators to answer questions about the Sept. 11 attack at the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) were to attend the meeting, which was requested by Rice’s office, according to Senate aides.

President Obama is reportedly considering nominating Rice to serve as his next secretary of state. Obama recently provided a spirited defense of Rice as she faced criticism from the trio of senators and other Republicans concerned with how she explained the justifications for the Sept. 11 attack in a series of appearances on Sunday political talk shows.

Ayotte said Monday that her opposition to Rice’s nomination remains firm, unless she feels that she has been given a full account of the consulate attack. “I would hold the [Rice] nomination until I got sufficient answers,” Ayotte said.

Rice is expected to meet later this week with another critic, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), and possibly other lawmakers, congressional aides said.

The GOP criticism of Rice has angered many Democrats, who say Republicans are making her a scapegoat for the administration’s response to the deadly assault in Benghazi. Senior House Democrats have also questioned whether Republicans are singling out Rice because she is black.

Rice’s meeting with the senators comes after McCain said Sunday that he’s willing to meet with Rice — and possibly vote to confirm her as secretary of state — if she’s willing to answer some questions.

“I’d give everyone the benefit of explaining their position and the actions that they took. I’d be glad to have the opportunity to discuss these issues with her,” McCain told “Fox News Sunday.” “Why did she say that — why did she say that al-Qaeda has been decimated in her statement here on this program?”

News of the meeting was first reported by CBS News.

Paul Kane contributed to this post.

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