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ANALYSIS – Clinton takes bigger role in China ties

Hillary

ANALYSIS – Clinton takes bigger role in China ties

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has hired envoys to tackle most tough foreign policy issues, but one priority she kept is China as Washington seeks Beijing’s help on challenges from North Korea to Iran.

Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner co-host two days of “strategic and economic” talks with top Chinese officials this week — meetings traditionally handled by the Treasury under the former Bush administration.

Sidelined recently by an elbow injury, Clinton also wants to reassert herself as a key player amid reports she is playing a lesser role in crafting foreign policy for President Barack Obama, her rival in last year’s Democratic presidential race.

Officials say Clinton — whose first foreign trip was to China — wants improved relations with Beijing to be a signature issue, with plans to broaden the previous focus from largely economic ties to a more “comprehensive” relationship.

“Over the past few years, the dialogue tended to shift significantly towards the economic and financial side,” said Clinton’s spokesman, P.J. Crowley.

“I think it (Clinton’s new role) reflects a return to a really broad range of issues, rather than a fairly narrow set that might have been the focus of the agenda over the past couple of years.”

The goal of the talks on Monday and Tuesday in Washington is to set a framework for the Obama administration’s agenda with the Chinese government — which is sending nearly all of its key officials for sessions.

“When you look at the U.S.-China relationship, it is kind of overweight on economics and light on security and foreign policy cooperation,” said Drew Thompson, director of China Studies at the Nixon Center.

Aside from stabilizing the shaky global economy, another focus of this week’s talks will be climate change and clean energy, an area Clinton earmarked as a diplomatic priority with Beijing and where some experts expect the most movement.


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Netanyahu says Israel-U.S. ties still steadfast

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Netanyahu says Israel-U.S. ties still steadfast

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu played down sharp differences with the United States over Jewish settlements on Sunday before the arrival of two senior U.S. officials.

“It is only natural, that within a fabric of friendly relations between allies, there isn’t full agreement on all points,” Netanyahu said.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy, former senator George Mitchell, will try in talks with Israeli leaders to end the most serious rift between Israel and its main ally in a decade. Mitchell was due to meet Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak later in the day, see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday and hold discussions with Netanyahu on Tuesday.

U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates also plans talks in Israel. He was due to meet Netanyahu and Barak on Monday to discuss missile defence, Iran’s nuclear ambitions and bilateral security issues, a senior U.S. defence official said.

“This relationship is important and steadfast,” Netanyahu, who has refused to meet Obama’s demand to freeze settlements in the occupied West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem, told his cabinet about U.S.-Israeli ties.

“We are trying to reach understandings on various issues so that we can, together, advance our common goals: peace, security and prosperity for all of the Middle East.”

Mitchell and Barak have attempted in a series of meetings over the past several weeks in New York and London to forge a compromise on settlement expansion, an issue at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

PEACE TALKS

Palestinian leaders have said peace talks with Israel, frozen for the past six months, cannot resume unless all settlement activity ceases. Barak has raised the possibility of halting construction in settlements while allowing building projects already under way to continue, as part of a deal under which Arab countries would take initial steps to normalise relations with Israel.

Netanyahu has pledged not to build new settlements or expropriate additional territory in the West Bank, where Palestinians hope to build a state. But he has said construction in settlements to accommodate the “natural growth” of their populations must continue. Palestinians say they fear settlements, deemed illegal by the World Court, could deny them a viable and contiguous state.

In another sign of tensions between Netanyahu’s right-leaning government and the Obama administration, the Israeli leader has also rejected U.S. pressure to halt the planned construction of 20 new homes for Jews in East Jerusalem.

Israel captured East Jerusalem, where 200,000 Israelis and 270,000 Palestinians now live, in a 1967 war and annexed it in a move that has not won international recognition. Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestine.

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Revolutionary Guard leader: We can hit Israel’s nuclear facilities

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Revolutionary Guard leader: We can hit Israel’s nuclear facilities

The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said Saturday that Iran will strike Israel’s nuclear facilities if the Jewish state attacks Iran, a semi-official news agency reported.

“If the Zionist regime attacks Iran, we will surely strike its nuclear facilities with our missile capabilities,” said Gen. Mohammed Ali Jaafari, according to the Iranian Labor News Agency, referring to Israel.

“Our missile capability puts all of the Zionist regime within Iran’s reach to attack,” Jaafari said, according to ILNA.

The military chief said calls against Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran maintains is for peaceful purposes, are part of the “psychological war that the West has launched against Iran.”

Iran has refused international calls to suspend its production of enriched uranium, which it insists will be used to fuel civilian nuclear power plants. Jaafari has said in the past that any strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities would be regarded as the beginning of war.

“We have no illusions whatsoever as to the hostile intentions of the theocratic radical regime in Iran,” said Mark Regev, the spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister, about Iran’s threat.

Israel, which regards Iran’s nuclear program to be a considerable threat, is widely believed to have nuclear weapons itself. Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a nuclear-armed Iran would destabilize the Middle East and threaten the entire world by triggering an arms race and supplying catastrophic weapons to terrorists.

“The goal is to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said, adding that most governments in the Middle East, Europe and elsewhere agreed. “It’s not merely an interest of Israel,” he said.

Pressed on whether Israel would launch a unilateral attack against Iranian nuclear facilities, Netanyahu said Israel “always reserves the right to defend itself.”

He said, “We are threatened as no other people are threatened,” he said.

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