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