Arab world must confront Iran: Hillary

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on Monday. AP

On the first stop of a three-nation tour of the Persian Gulf, Clinton said the Arab world in particular should act to sharpen enforcement of the sanctions and reject attempts to stoke  tensions in West Asia.

She also said Arab states had a special role to play in helping restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks by promoting a broader Arab-Israeli settlement.

“The most recent analysis is that the sanctions have been working. They have made it much more difficult for Iran to pursue its nuclear ambitions,” she told a pan-Arab television talk show. “Their programme, from our best estimate, has been slowed down.

So we have time, but not a lot of time.”

If Iran succeeds in developing an atomic bomb, it will plunge West Asia into a disastrous nuclear arms race, she said. “It is first and foremost in the interest of the region to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”

As the sanctions have taken effect, Clinton said it was clear Iran was actively trying to scuttle peace efforts by promoting tensions that some fear could lead to war between Israel and Iranian and Syrian proxies in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

“I am aware of the drumbeats and I think that those unfortunately are being created for very cynical purposes,” she told the audience. “Let’s be very blunt here. I think that there is very little doubt that Iran does not want to see any kind of negotiated peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

“We cannot let that attention get diverted and we cannot let any outside influence cause a conflict in the Middle East that would be a disaster for everyone,” Clinton said. “The responsible leadership in the region must do everything it can to prevent anyone from
taking action that could launch a conflict.”

As part of that effort, she said Arab nations should recommit to a Saudi-proposed comprehensive land-for-peace proposal under which the entire Arab world would normalise relations with Israel.

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