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Clinton Declares 'New Era' for America

Thursday, 22 Jan 2009 06:06 PM

WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton took charge Thursday of US foreign policy proclaiming a "new era for America" based on robust diplomacy and a fresh unity of purpose.

"I believe with all my heart that this is a new era for America," a beaming Clinton told a welcoming party of hundreds at the State Department following her Senate confirmation Wednesday as the 67th secretary of state.

Clinton, the wife of former US president Bill Clinton, faces unfinished wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the troubled Middle East peace process, climate change, conflicts in Africa and efforts to revamp a tarnished US image.

"I think this is a time of such potential and possibility. I don't get up in the morning just thinking about the threats and the dangers, as real as they are. I also think what we can do," said Clinton.

State Department officials said she already began calling top diplomats and leaders overseas. One was to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, after a similar call Wednesday by President Barack Obama, an Abbas spokesman said.

Clinton also sought to boost the role of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) which aims to use aid to advance foreign policy goals -- something her predecessor Condoleezza Rice had been accused of neglecting.

"I will do all that I can, working with you, to make it abundantly clear that robust diplomacy and effective development are the best long-term tools for security America's future," said Clinton, who supervises USAID.

The 61-year-old former US first lady and former New York senator drew massive applause when she informed the crowd that Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will visit the State Department on Thursday.

"We want to send a clear and unequivocal message: This is a team, and you are members of that team," said Clinton, who narrowly lost to Obama in a bitter campaign to be the Democratic Party's candidate for president.

Neither Clinton nor Obama can make progress on foreign policy "unless we make clear we are all on the American team," Clinton said.

"We are not any longer going to tolerate the kind of divisiveness that has paralyzed and undermined our ability to get things done for America," she said, alluding to troubles in 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.

However, Clinton welcomed both "candor" and "a good debate" in shaping US foreign policy and said she would be a task master. "I'm going to be asking a lot of you. I want you to think outside the proverbial box."

Congratulations poured in from allies.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany, an ally which had seen US ties fray during the Bush presidency, sent a letter offering to work with Clinton on Middle East peace and halting Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Germany is one of six countries working together in a bid to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. Steinmeier has long called on Washington to consider direct talks with the leadership in Tehran.

At her Senate confirmation hearing a week ago, Clinton said the Obama administration would pursue "an attitude toward engagement (with Iran) that might bear fruit."

US-Iranian relations were severed in 1980, following the Islamic revolution and seizure of US diplomats as hostage.

In her call to the West Bank town of Ramallah, Clinton "spoke of the need to support president Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to reach a durable and just peace as quickly as possible," Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said.

At her Senate confirmation hearing, Clinton pledged to work immediately to pursue Arab-Israeli peace following an Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip that has ended in a fragile truce.

Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.


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