'NY not the place to resolve Israeli-Palestinian conflict'

Clinton: Palestinian moves at UN wouldn't be productive; presses Gulf countries on Iran sanctions; dismisses Dagan's Iran comments.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
January 10, 2011 04:15
3 minute read.
US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton

Hillary Clinton face and flag 311 AP. (photo credit: AP)

 
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ABU DHABI — US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday, in meetings with leaders in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Muscat and Doha, Clinton said she would look for more Arab backing for the new government in Iraq and more financial support for the Palestinian Authority.

As the Obama administration struggles to get the Mideast peace process back on track, Clinton will push wealthy Arab powers to broaden their contributions to the Palestinians. The US is keen to keep the development of Palestinian governmental institutions moving ahead.

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Such progress may help forestall Palestinian moves to declare statehood or seek UN action against Israel.

"We continue to believe strongly that New York is not the place to resolve the longstanding conflict and outstanding issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians," Clinton said. "We do not think that that is a productive path for the Palestinians or anyone to pursue."

Discussing the Iranian nuclear sanctions, the US secretary of state said that the world must keep pressure on Iran over its suspect nuclear program despite recent estimates that the country may be further behind in efforts to develop atomic weapons than previously thought.

Clinton told reporters accompanying her on a three-nation tour of the Persian Gulf that Iran "remains a serious concern" no matter when it might be able to produce a nuclear weapon. And she urged countries in the region that do business with Iran "to do everything within reason" to help ensure the sanctions are enforced.

"We have had a consistent message to our friends in the Gulf that there is no part of the world that has more at stake in trying to deter Iran from becoming the creator and possessor of nuclear weapons than you," she said.



"I don't know that it gives much comfort to someone who is in the Gulf or in a country that Iran has vowed to destroy that it's a one-year or three-year timeframe. So, I think we should keep the focus where it belongs," she said, referring to the sanctions and efforts by world powers to persuade Iran to halt uranium enrichment.

Her comments were the first from a senior US official in response to reports on Friday that newly retired spy chief Meir Dagan thinks Iran won't be able to build a nuclear bomb before 2015, further pushing back Israeli intelligence estimates of when Teheran might become a nuclear power.

"We don't want anyone to be misled by anyone's intelligence analysis," Clinton said. "This remains a serious concern. We expect all our partners ... to stay as focused as they can and do everything within reason that will help to implement these sanctions."

As recently as 2009, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Iran would be able to build a nuclear bomb by 2011. But since then the projected deadline has been extended. The cabinet minister in charge of strategic affairs, Moshe Ya'alon, said last week it would take the Iranians at least three years to develop a nuclear weapon.

Many Arab nations share US fears that Iran is using a civilian atomic energy program to hide weapons development. Those concerns were amplified in leaked diplomatic cables released by the WikiLeaks website late last year that revealed deep mistrust of Iran by Sunni Arab leaders who must deal with an increasing emboldened Shi'ite neighbor.

Clinton acknowledged that one reason for her trip to the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar was to try to contain damage done by the release of the classified cables, which have exposed embarrassing secrets and tensions in the region.

Her visit comes ahead of a new round of international talks with Iran, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 21-22 in Turkey. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the US, Russia, China, Britain and France — along with Germany will again try to compel Iran to come clean about its nuclear intentions, in return for incentives.

Clinton's trip to the Gulf is her second in as many months. She also attended an international security conference in Bahrain in December. While Iran is always high on the agenda during such visits to the region, her focus this time will be broader.

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