Clinton appears set for Senate OK as top diplomat

(AP) - From the disappointment of a failed White House bid, Hillary Rodham Clinton is on the threshold of the world's stage as chief diplomat for the Democrat who defeated her.
Clinton appears set to sail smoothly through a Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday, despite concerns among some lawmakers that the global fundraising of her husband, former President Bill Clinton, could pose ethical conflicts for her as President-elect Barack Obama's secretary of state.
Clinton called Tuesday for a "smart power" strategy in the MiddleEast that goes beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to addressother pressing issues like Iran's nuclear program.
While offering no specific new peace proposal, Clinton spokeconfidently of President-elect Barack Obama's intentions to renewAmerican leadership in the world and to strengthen U.S. diplomacy.
"As intractable as the Middle East's problems may seem and manypresidents, including my husband, have spent years trying to helpwork out a resolution, we cannot give up on peace," she told herconfirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee."The President-elect and I understand and are deeply sympatheticto Israel's desire to defend itself under the current conditions,and to be free of shelling by Hamas rockets."
"However, we have also been reminded of the tragic humanitariancosts of conflict in the Middle East, and pained by the sufferingof Palestinian and Israeli civilians," she said. "This must onlyincrease our determination to seek a just and lasting peaceagreement that brings real security to Israel; normal and positiverelations with its neighbors; and independence, economic progress,and security to the Palestinians in their own state."
The panel's ranking Republican, Sen. Richard Lugar, praisedClinton, calling her "the epitome of a big leaguer" who is fullyqualified for the job and whose presence at the State Departmentcould open new opportunities for American diplomacy, including thepossibility of improving the United States' image in the world.
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) the new chairman of the committee,pressed Clinton on whether Obama sees a nuclear-armed Iran asunacceptable at any cost, or merely undesirable.
Clinton responded: "The president-elect has said repeatedly itis unacceptable. It is going to be United States policy to pursuediplomacy - with all of its [tools] - to do everything we can toprevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapon state. As I also said,no option is off the table."
She said the new administration would pursue a broader approachto the problem of Islamic extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"We must also actively pursue a strategy of smart power in theMiddle East that addresses the security needs of Israel and thelegitimate political and economic aspirations of the Palestinians;that effectively challenges Iran to end its nuclear weapons programand sponsorship of terror, and persuades both Iran and Syria toabandon their dangerous behavior and become constructive regionalactors; that strengthens our relationships with Egypt, Jordan,Saudi Arabia, other Arab states, with Turkey, and with our partnersin the Gulf to involve them in securing a lasting peace in theregion. "
Clinton also promised to push for stronger U.S. alliances aroundthe globe.
"America cannot solve the most pressing problems on our own,"Clinton said, "and the world cannot solve them without America."
To watch Clinton's opening remarks in their entirety, go to Channel 612 on your iO digital cable box and select iO Extra.