Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration as US secretary of state tonight in the face of what promised to be a difficult Senate confirmation battle.
Ms Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations and a close confidante of President Barack Obama, said she was withdrawing from the process to avoid a lengthy, costly and disruptive confirmation battle.
"That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country," she wrote in a letter to Mr Obama.
Ms Rice has faced questions about comments she made days after the 11 September assault on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, when the Obama administration said the attack was a result of a spontaneous demonstration over a film made in the US that was insulting to the Prophet Mohammad.
Mr Obama issued a statement saying he had accepted her decision and is grateful she will continue as the US ambassador to the United Nations.
Hillary Clinton is planning to step down as secretary of state.