WASHINGTON – Washington has "a lot of damage to repair" to its global standing, but the world is relieved President Barack Obama has now replaced George W. Bush, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday.
In her first news briefing, Clinton said nonetheless that there would not be a total "repudiation" of the past eight years and that the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear disarmament, pursued under Bush, are "essential."
In its first week in power, President Obama's administration has set out a new approach toward the war on terrorism, climate change, Iran's nuclear program and Arab-Israeli peace negotiations.
The sense of relief over Obama's new approach was palpable in her introductory phone calls to her counterparts worldwide, Clinton told reporters during an informal visit to their office space in the State Department.
"There is a great exhalation of breath going on around the world as people express their appreciation for the new direction that is being set and the team that is being put together by the president," said the chief US diplomat.
She said the Obama administration -- which criticized the Bush's team for relying too much on military power -- views defense, diplomacy and development aid as the pillars of the new foreign policy.
The White House and State Department, she said, are demonstrating a "unified effort" after pledging last week that the new administration would no longer "tolerate" the divisions that "paralyzed" the Bush administration.
Colin Powell, who served as secretary of state under Bush's first term, was sidelined in policy-making by both vice president Dick Cheney and defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
"We have a lot of damage to repair," Clinton said without mentioning by name the Bush administration which critics accused of taking unilateral action and scorning international bodies.
But Clinton said the new administration would continue Bush policies where necessary, such as on Iraq and North Korea.
In calls Tuesday to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and President Jalal Talabani, Clinton sought to "reinforce our commitment to a democratic and sovereign Iraq, and the importance of their provincial elections."
Iraq is scheduled Saturday to hold provincial elections which are seen as a key test of the country's stability, nearly six years since the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and upset many US allies.
Clinton also said it is "essential" for the United States to pursue the six-party nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea that began under Bush. Those talks involve the United States, the two Koreas, Japan, China and Russia.
With the Obama administration open to a new approach on Iran, Clinton urged Tehran to show "willingness to engage meaningfully" with the world community.
Iran on Tuesday said it was seeking a "concrete change" in US policy towards the Islamic republic under Obama after he extended a diplomatic hand to Washington's arch-foe in a television interview broadcast Monday.
The Bush administration refused to enter negotiations with Iran until it first abandons the enrichment of uranium, which Washington fears will be used to build an atomic bomb.
"In areas of the world that have felt either overlooked or not receiving appropriate attention for the problems that they are experiencing, there's a welcoming of the engagement that we are promising," Clinton added.
"So it's not any kind of repudiation or indictment of the past eight years (under Bush) so much as an excitement and an acceptance of how we're going to be doing business," Clinton said.
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