Comments follow meeting with top Palestinians
BRUSSELS, Belgium – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton swiped hard at Iran on Wednesday, accusing its hard-line leaders of fomenting divisions in the Arab world, promoting terrorism, posing threats to Israel and Europe, and seeking to “intimidate as far as they think their voice can reach.”
Her remarks, at the conclusion of two days of talks in Egypt, Israel and the West Bank, were notable for coming from an Obama administration that has raised the prospect of diplomatic engagement with Iran as part of a new direction in U.S. foreign policy.
In remarks to reporters aboard her plane en route from Ramallah to Brussels, Clinton said that in her talks with Arab foreign ministers and other leaders she heard “over and over and over again” a deep-seated worry about threats posed by the Iranians.
“It is clear that Iran intends to interfere with the internal affairs of all of these people and try to continue their efforts to fund terrorism, whether it’s Hezbollah or Hamas or other proxies,” she said.
The sharp objections to Iranian behavior that Clinton enumerated are the same as those underlined by the Bush administration during its dealings with Tehran. The difference is that the Obama administration says it sees merit in pressing the Iranians to discuss the problems, even if talks fail or the Iranians refuse to engage.
In Tehran on Wednesday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, accused President Barack Obama of following the same mistaken path as the Bush administration with his “unconditional” support of Israel. Khamenei also called Israel a “cancerous tumor” on the verge of collapse. He said Israeli leaders should be put on trial for its military offensive in Gaza, which ended in mid-January.
During her visit to Ramallah, Clinton met with the top leaders of the Palestinian Authority that administers the West Bank, President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Clinton offered strong support for Abbas and for pushing hard to restart peace talks with Israel. Standing next to him, she told a news conference that the Palestinian Authority is the “only legitimate government of the Palestinian people.”