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Clinton vows new dawn for diplomacy after nomination vote

Secretary of state-designate Hillary Clinton. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Jan 15, 2009
Secretary of state-designate Hillary Clinton vowed Thursday to clear up the "fog" of the past eight years' US diplomacy after her nomination cleared a key hurdle in the Senate.

In a 16-1 vote, the Senate foreign relations committee approved the New York senator's nomination to become the nation's top diplomat under Barack Obama, who is to be sworn in as president next Tuesday.

In a farewell speech on the Senate floor, Clinton said she was "gratified" by the powerful committee's endorsement, which sets the stage for an easy passage through the full Senate once Obama is inaugurated.

"We have much to do over in Foggy Bottom," the former first lady said, referring to the State Department's Washington headquarters.

"And we need your help to kind of clear up the fog," she told the senators, urging their support to enable US diplomacy "to really operate on all cylinders" after the controversial presidency of George W. Bush.

Foreign relations committee chairman John Kerry said Clinton "did an outstanding job" in her testimony before its members Tuesday, when she promised a "smart" blend of US military and diplomatic power projection under Obama.

The president-elect's designee for United Nations ambassador, Susan Rice, amplified the incoming administration's foreign policy goals in her own testimony before Kerry's committee on Thursday.

The former diplomat vowed to get tough at the UN with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, and revive US leadership globally with an emphasis on stronger international peacekeeping in global hotspots such as Darfur.

The interests of China, Russia and southern African countries "no longer, frankly, coincide" with Mugabe's regime, she said, arguing that his long period of rule was "clearly not long for this world."

Rice, who was a top foreign policy adviser to the Obama campaign after serving as an assistant secretary of state in the 1990s, recognized the United Nations "often frustrates Americans, and I am acutely aware of its shortcomings."

But effective global diplomacy and UN support was needed now more than ever, she said, promising redoubled US engagement on climate change, nuclear proliferation and human rights.

The fulsome support given to Clinton came despite some Republican reservations over potential conflicts of interests between her new job and the charitable foundation of her husband, former president Bill Clinton.

"As we go forward, I'm confident that Senator Clinton is going to give those full consideration," said Kerry, the Democrats' 2004 presidential nominee who has replaced vice president-elect Joseph Biden as the committee's chairman.

Bill Clinton's non-profit foundation, which works on HIV/AIDS, climate change and poverty, has accepted more than 131 million dollars from foreign governments, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Norway.

In the nominating vote by Kerry's committee, Republican David Vitter was the sole voice of dissent after he had sparred with Hillary Clinton over the foundation during Tuesday's hearing.

But minority Republican leader Mitch McConnell Thursday indicated smooth sailing for Clinton's nomination in the full Senate, saying she would be an "outstanding" secretary of state.

"And I want to say to the senator from New York, we'll be anxious to work with her on issues she'll have a passion for during her years as secretary of state," he said.

Clinton, who narrowly lost her campaign against Obama for the Democratic nomination last year, said Tuesday: "I believe American leadership has been wanting, but is still wanted.

"We must use what has been called 'smart power,' the full range of tools at our disposal," she said, advocating a mix of diplomatic, economic, military, political legal and cultural strategies.

Clinton said America must never give up on Middle East peace. As Israel's war on Hamas in Gaza rages, she ruled out talks with the Islamist militant group but expressed disquiet over civilian casualties on both sides.

She also previewed an "aggressive" bid to halt North Korea's alleged nuclear proliferation activities, and promised the United States would belatedly throw itself into the fight against global warming.

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Analysis: Doubts dog Obama's defense picks
Washington (UPI) Jan 15, 2009
William Lynn, whose nomination as deputy secretary of defense will be considered Thursday by the Senate Armed Services Committee, may face questions about his record as the Pentagon's top budget manager under President Bill Clinton.

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