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Clinton affirms support for Israel

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration Thursday warned Iran and Syria that America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakable and that they should understand the consequences of threats to the Jewish state.

In a speech, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Syrian transfers of increasingly sophisticated weaponry including rockets to militants in southern Lebanon and Gaza could spark new conflict in the Middle East. And she said a nuclear-armed Iran would profoundly destabilize the region.

“These threats to Israel’s security are real, they are growing and they must be addressed,” she said in the speech to the American Jewish Committee. The speech was the administration’s latest effort to reassure Israel that its ties to the United States remain strong despite tensions that flared last month.

Clinton told the group that Israel is “confronting some of the toughest challenges in her history,” particularly from Iran, Syria and groups they support like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and reaffirmed U.S. determination to get them to change course.

Israel has accused Syria of providing Hezbollah with weapons that would dramatically increase the group’s ability to strike targets in Israel. Syria has denied the charges.

Getting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stop supplying these weapons, Clinton said, is one of the administration’s prime goals in returning an ambassador to Damascus. The U.S. has been without an ambassador in Syria for five years. The nominee, career diplomat Robert Ford, is still awaiting Senate confirmation.

“President Assad is making decisions that could mean war or peace for the region,” she said. “We know he’s hearing from Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. It is crucial that he also hear directly from us, so that the potential consequences of his actions are clear.”


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