Damage from WikiLeaks will take years to undo: Clinton

Damage from WikiLeaks will take years to undo: Clinton

"I think I will be answering concerns about WikiLeaks for the rest of my life, not just the rest of my tenure as secretary of State," Clinton told reporters as she embarked on a five-day visit of Arab countries, many of which were stung by revelations by the whistle-blower website about private talks between American diplomats and regional leaders.

According to the leaked American cables, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah repeatedly urged the US to "cut off the head of the snake" by launching military strikes to destroy Iran's nuclear programme.

Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, the Bahraini king was also quoted as saying that Iran's nuclear programme should be stopped by any means, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al- Nahayan, the crown prince of the emirate of Abu Dhabi saw "the logic of war dominating" when it comes to dealing with the Iranian threat.

America's chief diplomat also likened her recent overseas travels to an extended "apology tour" to reassure allies who suffered embarrassment because of the disclosures of thousands of secret American diplomatic cables.

Clinton, who is on her second Middle East trip in less than a month, said she has sought to "affirmatively raise" the WikiLeaks issue in meetings with Arab officials to address the problems head-on, Washington Post reported.

Clinton will visit the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar, where leaders are concerned about Iran's nuclear ambitions and growing influence in the region.

Some of Iran's Arab neighbours were particularly aggrieved by leaked State Department cables that showed them privately urging the Obama administration to take a harder line against Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Clinton said she had quipped to one of her aides that she needed a tour jacket, similar to the ones used by rock bands, that would have a "big picture of the world and would say 'The Apology Tour' " on it, the Post said.

Although the intensity has abated somewhat, the fallout from the WikiLeaks affair "is still in the atmosphere," she said.

Clinton's trip comes ahead of a new round of international talks with Iran, tentatively scheduled for January 21-22 in Turkey.

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