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Clinton pledges to use diplomacy

Hillary Clinton: 'We must pursue a strategy of smart power in the Middle East'

Hillary Clinton has pledged to use a "smart" mix of military and diplomatic power as US secretary of state, in testimony before a US Senate committee.

She was speaking at her confirmation hearing as secretary of state before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Mrs Clinton said there would be change of policy towards Cuba under President-elect Barack Obama's administration.

She said the new government wanted to lift travel restrictions on Americans with families in Cuba.

Mr Obama has already said he is willing to talk to the government of President Raul Castro in an effort to end 50 years of strained relations since the Cuban revolution.

'Smart power'

In her opening statement at the hearing, Mrs Clinton expressed a desire to strengthen America's relationship with its allies.

With 'smart power', diplomacy will be the vanguard of foreign policy
Hillary Clinton

"America cannot solve the most pressing problems on our own, and the world cannot solve them without America," said the New York senator.

"We must use what has been called 'smart power', the full range of tools at our disposal," she added.

"With 'smart power', diplomacy will be the vanguard of foreign policy."

On North Korea, she indicated that she and Mr Obama support the existing six-party framework for negotiating that country's nuclear disarmament.

North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the US are involved in continuing talks on ending Pyongyang's plutonium enrichment.

"Our goal is to end the North Korean nuclear programmes," she told the hearing.

The six-party framework, she added, "provides an opportunity... for bilateral contact as well between North Korea and the United States".

Collegial atmosphere

Mrs Clinton was greeted warmly by her ex-colleagues at the Senate hearing.

Hillary Clinton takes her seat on Capitol Hill before her confirmation hearing, Washington, US, 13 January 2009
Mrs Clinton's confirmation hearing has attracted significant media interest

But the former first lady was also asked questions about conflicts of interest triggered by her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Mr Clinton's charitable foundation has received a number of donations from foreign governments and multinational corporations.

Richard Lugar, the most senior Republican on the Senate panel, said the existence of Mr Clinton's foundation represented a "unique complication" that required "great care and transparency".

And Louisiana Senator David Vitter said Mr Clinton's fundraising activities posed "real and perceived conflict issues" for Mrs Clinton.

The BBC's James Coomarasamy in Washington says the atmosphere in the committee room was collegial and that on many issues, Mrs Clinton expressed views that were not dissimilar to those of the Bush administration.

The vote on the nomination is scheduled for Thursday, a sign that the committee's chairman, Senator John Kerry, does not expect there to be any stumbling blocks, correspondents say.

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