Washington: Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, is emerging as the frontrunner to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who is expected to leave the post of top American diplomat early next year.
Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon are also in line to succeed Clinton.
While all the three are confidants to the US President, Barack Obama, Rice, 47, is said to be his most favourite. Obama has given Rice the status of a Cabinet Minister.
Rice will be the second African-American woman to hold the position -- the first being Condoleeza Rice under George W Bush.
The name of Bill Burns, the Deputy Secretary of State, is also doing the rounds in some circles.
However, Republican Senators have been very critical of Rice, after her comments on Libya that the attack on the US Consulate Benghazi was a result of mob violence agitated against an anti-Islam movie. However, the Obama Administration determined that this was a terrorist attack.
"Everybody knows that Susan Rice is a possibility, but would have some difficulties in confirmation, given the controversy over what happened in Libya. It's anybodys guess. The decisions of a single person are always very difficult to predict," Daniel Serwer, Professor, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, told foreign journalists.