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Clinton says she is still on track for State Department exit

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hillary Clinton says she still intends to step down as U.S. secretary of state sometime around January's presidential inauguration, dispelling speculation over reports she might opt to stay in the post amid numerous diplomatic crises if President Barack Obama wins re-election.

"It's really still my same time-frame," Clinton told the Washington Post in an interview published on Friday, repeating her plan to step down after one term even if voters on November 6 give Obama another four years in office.

"I'm aiming to leave shortly after the inauguration; that's my plan. But I haven't been able to sit down and talk to the president yet because he's trying to win an election, which hopefully will be finalized shortly. And then we will talk through how to do the transition."

Clinton's future plans were questioned again this week after the Wall Street Journal reported that she had left the door open to delaying her departure.

Clinton - often mentioned as a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2016 - repeatedly has said she would serve only one term at the State Department, and a senior Clinton aide cautioned reporters against reading much into any suggestions she had changed her mind.

Clinton, in her interview, indicated she is unlikely to be persuaded to stay on beyond the immediate transition.

"I'm not really open to staying longer, but I also know that we have to be conscious of the work that has to be done," she told the Post. "And again, I'll have to talk to the president."

Clinton, often cited as one of the most popular members of Obama's cabinet, has said she intends to take time off from public life. If Obama wins re-election, analysts say possible successors include Democratic Senator John Kerry and Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.

If Republican challenger Mitt Romney wins on November 6, he would pick his own secretary of state.

(Reporting by Andrew Quinn; Editing by Will Dunham)

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