Clinton: Iran Engagement Still in the Offering
Updated 1:22 p.m.
By Glenn Kessler
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reaffirmed the administration's interest in engaging Iran in the wake of the disputed election results and what she called a "deplorable and unacceptable" crackdown on dissent.
"Neither the president nor I have any illusions that direct dialogue with the Islamic Republic will guarantee success," Clinton said in an early afternoon speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, according to an advance version of her remarks. "But we also understand the importance of trying to engage Iran and offering its leaders a clear choice: whether to join the international community as a responsible member or to continue down a path to further isolation."
Clinton, however, reiterated that time is running short for Iran to respond. "The time for action is now. The opportunity will not remain open indefinitely," she said. The Group of Eight nations, meeting in Italy last week, set the September meeting of the United Nations General Assembly as a target date for an Iranian answer before the nations seeking to negotiate with Iran on its nuclear program turn to discussing increased sanctions.
"We cannot be afraid or unwilling to engage," Clinton said. "Yet some suggest that this is a sign of weakness or naiveté -- or acquiescence to these countries' repression of their own people. That is wrong. The President and I believe that refusing to talk to countries rarely punishes them. And as long as engagement might advance our interests and our values, it is unwise to take it off the table. Negotiations can provide insight into regimes' calculations and the possibility -- even if it seems remote -- that a regime will, eventually, alter its behavior in exchange for the benefits of acceptance into the international community."
The State Department had billed Clinton's speech this afternoon as a "major address," though much of it addressed themes similar to those Clinton outlined in her Senate confirmation statement.
Posted at 10:29 AM ET on Jul 15, 2009
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