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Clinton returns to work from monthlong absence

| Monday, Jan. 7, 2013, 7:52 p.m.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton displays a football helmet presented to her on Monday, January 7, 2013, at the State Department in Washington as she returned to work for the first time following a month-long absence. AP

WASHINGTON — Cheers and the need for security at diplomatic posts greeted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she returned to work on Monday from a monthlong absence caused first by a stomach virus, then a concussion and finally a brief hospitalization for a blood clot near her brain.

A crowd of about 75 State Department officials greeted Clinton with a standing ovation as she walked in to the first senior staff meeting she has convened since December, according to those present. Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, noting that life in Washington is often a “contact sport, sometimes even in your own home” presented Clinton with a gift — a regulation white Riddell football helmet emblazoned with the State Department seal, officials said.

She was also given a blue football jersey with “Clinton” and the number 112 — the record-breaking number of countries she has visited since becoming secretary of State — printed on the back. Aides said Clinton was delighted with the gifts but did not try either of them on, and the meeting turned to matters of national security and diplomacy.

“Being Hillary Clinton, she wanted to get right to business,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

At the meeting, Clinton stressed the need for the State Department to implement a review board's recommendations for improving the security at high-threat diplomatic posts, officials said. Clinton said she wanted to see all 29 of the recommendations from the independent Accountability Review Board in place by the time her successor takes over.

The review board, established after the deadly Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. missions in Benghazi, Libya, harshly criticized leadership and management at two State Department bureaus that allowed the post to be inadequately protected. Four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, were killed.

Clinton told her staff that she would testify before Congress about the report before she leaves office, officials said.

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