Clinton slams Obama for pledge to meet with rogue leaders without preconditions

Says she won't yet be "penciling in" appointments with leaders of Iran, N. Korea, Venezuela or Cuba.

clinton mike 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
clinton mike 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reiterated on Monday her willingness to meet with representatives of rogue regimes such as Iran, but said she would not be "penciling in" appointments with those nation's top leaders anytime soon. In a major foreign policy address delivered at George Washington University, Clinton declared, "I propose a new American strategy to restore our moral authority, end the war in Iraq, and defend and protect our nation." She detailed her plan to start bringing US troops back from Iraq within 60 days of taking office and called for greater use of diplomacy. Clinton discussed policies on Pakistan, China, Cuba and other countries, but didn't mention Israel, the Palestinians or Islamic extremism. She described a "new policy" toward Pakistan that "builds on the democratic yearnings expressed by the Pakistani people in elections last week and recognizes that the border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan are among the most important and dangerous in the world." During her speech, she took several swipes at her chief rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, in an attempt to regain momentum heading into the crucial Texas and Ohio primaries next Tuesday. "If I am entrusted with the presidency, America will have the courage, once again, to meet with our adversaries," Clinton said. "But I will not be penciling in the leaders of Iran or North Korea or Venezuela or Cuba on the presidential calendar without preconditions until we have assessed, through lower-level diplomacy, the motivations and intentions of these dictators." The argument was one she used to score points against her chief rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama last summer. At an earlier debate, Obama said he would meet with these parties without conditions upon entering office, an approach Clinton painted as "naïve." In her speech Monday, she attacked Obama directly, saying, "He wavers from seeming to believe that mediation and meetings without preconditions can solve the world's most intractable problems, to advocating rash unilateral military action without cooperation from our allies in the most sensitive region of the world." Obama has said the US should consider pursuing al-Qaida in Pakistan even without the consent of Pakistan's government. He has criticized Clinton in return, charging that her policies for dealing with enemy countries put her in step with US President George W. Bush. The Obama campaign didn't have an immediate comment on Clinton's comments Monday. In her remarks, Clinton also stressed her campaign themes of experience and strength, saying, "In this moment of peril and promise, we need a president who is tested and ready, who can draw on years of real world experience working on many of the issues that we now confront." This message, though, has seemed to resonate less than Obama's appeal for change, which has helped him maintain a string of primary victories. Clinton, who also slammed likely Republican presidential nominee John McCain for his support for keeping troops in Iraq, focused most of her opprobrium on Bush and his policies. "We need a president who understands there is a time for force, a time for diplomacy, and a time for both," she said. Meanwhile, Likud MK Yuli Edelstein gave a positive twist Tuesday to the negative comments about his party that were made on Monday by Obama while campaigning in Ohio, that to be pro-Israeli one did not have to be pro-Likud. Edelstein said Obama's comments only proved what he had known all along, that his party was pro-Israel and patriotic. Obama had said, "I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel, then you're anti-Israel, and that can't be the measure of our friendship with Israel." In response, Edelstein said, "I am glad that there is the general perception that to be pro-Israel is pro Likud." "I am glad that the general feeling in the American Jewish community is that the Likud expresses the real patriotic Zionist position," he added. But support for the state was broader then that, Edelstein said. "In the complex situation of the Middle East, to be pro-Israel is not just to say that you are in favor of a secure and flourishing state of Israel. It is to take a stand on our battle with terrorism and terrorists and to realize that in this battle there are good guys and bad guys, and it is not shameful to be on the same side as the good guys," Edelstein said. Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.