Iran Nuclear NewsClinton asks Congress for ‘flexibility’ on Iran curbs

Clinton asks Congress for ‘flexibility’ on Iran curbs

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ImageBloomberg: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she hopes the United Nations will agree on new sanctions against Iran’s nuclear effort within 60 days and asked Congress for “flexibility” in any legislation targeted at the regime. By Indira A.R. Lakshmanan

ImageFeb. 24 (Bloomberg) — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she hopes the United Nations will agree on new sanctions against Iran’s nuclear effort within 60 days and asked Congress for “flexibility” in any legislation targeted at the regime.

The Obama administration wants Congress to bolster the overall U.S. strategy of trying to dissuade the Iranian government from continuing with development work that would lead to a nuclear weapons capability, she told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee today.

The Senate and House would have to reconcile bills that could punish companies for selling gasoline to Iran or helping to develop refining capacity in that country. Iran relies on companies in Europe, China and Russia for gasoline, and the Obama administration is concerned that penalties against companies from UN Security Council nations might chip away at an international consensus for UN sanctions.

Clinton said consultations are “intensely” under way at the UN Security Council on further penalties for Iran. The administration has said it wants more restrictions on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, which has wide-ranging business interests and is involved in supporting the nuclear program.

Iran’s “refusal to live up to its responsibilities” has “helped us achieve a new unity with our international partners,” Clinton said. “Iran has left the international community little choice but to impose greater costs for its provocative steps.”

Russian Response

Clinton said a “positive response” from Russia has been encouraging. “Our very clear commitment to engagement has created space for a lot of these countries” to now consider sanctions that they might not have otherwise, she said.

The top U.S. diplomat’s comments came during two Senate hearings on the $52.8 billion budget for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development for fiscal 2011.

“This is a time of great economic strain for many Americans,” Clinton told the subcommittee on State and foreign operations. “As a former senator, I know what this means for the people you represent. For every dollar we spend, we have to show results” and guard against “waste, redundancy and irrelevancy.”

Senator Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican who addressed Clinton at a Foreign Relations Committee hearing, said he was concerned about the “impacts of energy security on our foreign policy.”

Oil ‘Manipulation’

“Our energy crisis is not defined by any single threat,” he said. “Our current energy mix produces near-term concerns of foreign oil supply manipulation and price volatility, which will grow over time.”

Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who heads the Senate Appropriations subcommittee, said the increased foreign aid budget, which he said enjoyed bipartisan support, will help prevent deadly outbreaks of disease, confront terrorism and deal with the effects of global warming.

“These resources are all we have, in addition to the U.S. military, to protect the security and many other interests of the American people in an increasingly dangerous and competitive world,” Leahy said in an opening statement at the hearing.

Clinton noted the budget represents a $4.9 billion increase over 2010, of which $3.6 billion will go to diplomatic and development efforts in “frontline states” — Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

Yemen Aid

Clinton highlighted a 59 percent increase for funding to Yemen “to help counter the extremist threat and build institutions and economic opportunity” in that country.

Arrests of senior members of the Afghan Taliban show the “significance” of “the increasing efforts by Pakistani military and intelligence services to capture” terrorists, Clinton told the hearing.

Clinton criticized wealthy Pakistanis, saying they should pay a larger share of taxes to fund health and education spending and depend less on U.S. development aid.

The $2.6 billion request for civilian operations in Iraq to support the democratic transition there while U.S. troops withdraw is an example of efficient spending, Clinton said.

“The Defense budget for Iraq will be decreasing by about $16 billion — that’s a powerful illustration of the return on civilian investment,” she said.

Clinton said the State Department and the U.S. development agency need “to be better positioned to do our part on the civilian side” to promote development and diplomacy in Iraq and Afghanistan, independent of the U.S. military presence in those countries.

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