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Clinton in VOA Interview: US Focusing Sanctions on Iran's Revolutionary Guard

(KATAKAMI / VOA) U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States is focusing sanctions on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, asserting that the elite unit has become too involved in security, political and economic decisions.

Clinton told VOA Tuesday that Iran is becoming a more belligerent and repressive nation as the Revolutionary Guard increases its influence.

Clinton suggested the power shift from clerical and political leaders to the Revolutionary Guard may stem from Iran’s inner turmoil that resulted from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in June.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki criticized Clinton for saying Monday that Iran has become a “military dictatorship.”  He accused the U.S. of being like a military dictatorship through its actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Clinton also warned that Iran may trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East if it obtains an atomic weapon.

In a speech Tuesday at a women’s college in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Clinton said evidence does not support Iran’s claim that its nuclear program is being developed for peaceful purposes only.

President Ahmadinejad responded by saying he does not take Clinton’s comments seriously.

On the Middle East peace process, Clinton said it is imperative to remain optimistic about resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  She said both sides have so much at stake and will eventually realize it is in their best interest to return to the negotiating table.

Clinton spoke at the end of a tour of Persian Gulf states, where she sought to gain support from U.S. allies for tougher sanctions on Iran.

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Photostream : Secretary Clinton

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Hillary Clinton in Middle East to push Iran sanctions

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(KATAKAMI / TELEGRAPH.CO.UK) The US Secretary of State is visiting Qatar and Saudi Arabia to see a series of high-level diplomatic and military contacts.

She told the US-Islamic World forum the West was “encouraging Iran to reconsider its dangerous policy decisions” on its nuclear programme.

“Iran leaves the international community little choice but to impose greater costs for its provocative steps,” she said.

“It has consistently failed to live up to its responsibility. It has refused to demonstrate to the international community that its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.”

Her comments came as retired Gen James Jones, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, warned Iran that additional sanctions could destabilise the country.

“We know that internally there is a very serious problem. We’re about to add to that regime’s difficulties by engineering, participating in very tough sanctions, which we support,” he told Fox News.

“Not mild sanctions. These are very tough sanctions. A combination of those things could well trigger a regime change – it’s possible.”

Mrs Clinton is due to hold a one-on-one meeting with Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, at the US-Islamic World Forum. Turkey, the only Nato member that has a border with Iran, insists the dispute should be resolved through dialogue, arguing that economic sanctions or military action against would destabilise the Middle East.

In Riyadh, Mrs Clinton is planning to meet King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia’s and Prince Saud Al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister. She will also meet other Saudi officials in the Red Sea port of Jeddah.

The Obama administration is pushing for Iran to agree to a proposal to ship its low-enriched uranium abroad in return for nuclear fuel being provided for a Tehran medical research reactor. Last week, Tehran announced it would be enriching uranium to higher levels for medical purposes.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, flew out to Moscow on Sunday where he said he would press for support for “crippling sanctions” against Iran.

With Russia having hardened its stance, China is the sole veto-wielding country that could potentially block further sanctions at the UN Security Council and is still pushing for further negotiations

However US Vice President Joe Biden expressed confidence yesterday that the Chinese would ultimately join the other nations in backing measures to punish Iran.

“I believe we’ll get the support of China to continue to impose sanctions on Iran to isolate them, to make it clear that in fact they cannot move forward,” he said.

Britain and France – the remaining veto-wielding members – are backing more sanctions as well as from Germany, which has also been involved in months of negotiations to try and get Iran to change tack.

Iran is also under pressure for its brutal crackdown on domestic dissenters. On Monday, the United Nations human rights council is due to debate Tehran’s human rights record.

Mrs Clinton was also due to deliver a softer message to the Middle East on Saunday night in a speech in Doha, expanding on President Barack Obama’s call in Cairo last June for deeper engagement between the US with the Muslim world.

(MS)

Clinton Travels to Qatar, Saudi Arabia

(KATAKAMI / VOA) Her trip will focus on talks with allies on Iran and Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has left on a trip to Qatar and Saudi Arabia for talks with U.S. allies on Iran and efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Clinton is expected to arrive Sunday in Qatar’s capital, Doha, where she will meet with the emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, as well as Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, who serves as both the prime minister and foreign minister.

Clinton will also deliver a speech to the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, as part of the Obama administration’s bid to promote better ties with Muslim countries.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday appointed a special envoy to the 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference ahead of Clinton’s appearance at the forum.

In a recorded video message to the conference, Mr. Obama said he was appointing White House lawyer Rashad Hussain to expand the partnership with the Muslim community that he has pursued since his Cairo speech last June.

President Obama said he looks forward to continuing the dialogue next month when he visits Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country.  Mr. Obama also acknowledged the challenges ahead, because he said the relationship between the United States and Muslims has, as he put it, “slipped into a cycle of misunderstanding and mistrust that can lead to conflict rather than cooperation.”

In Saudi Arabia, Clinton will meet with King Abdullah, the principal sponsor of the 2003 Arab League peace initiative offering Israel full relations with Arab states for progress made with the Palestinians.  A State Department spokesman said Clinton will try to persuade Arab leaders to re-engage with the stalled peace process.

Clinton is departing a day later than planned after her husband, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, was briefly hospitalized for a heart procedure on Thursday.