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Clinton defends State Department budget

Feb. 28, 2012 at 5:18 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Tuesday faced opposition from Democrats and Republicans in a hearing on the State Department's $51.6 billion budget request.

Clinton, in testimony before the Senate Appropriations subcommittee in charge of the State Department's budget, said the budget request amounts to about a 2-percent increase from 2011 and would allow the United States to sustain national security missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. She said the budget reflects "the temporary extraordinary costs of operating on the front lines."

"We know how quickly the world is transforming, from Arab revolutions to the rise of new economic powers, to a more dispersed but still dangerous al-Qaida terrorist threat. In this time, only the United States of America has the reach, resources, and relationships to anchor a more peaceful and prosperous world," she said.

"We have ended one war, we are winding down another. We've cemented our place as a Pacific power while maintaining our alliance across the Atlantic. We have elevated the role of economics within our diplomacy, and we have reached beyond governments to engage directly with people with a special focus on women and girls."

Senators on both sides of the aisle warned Clinton it is unlikely the State Department will get everything it wants under the proposed budget.

"It's going to be difficult to get a bill through this year," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee.

In reference to a question from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., about the ongoing violence in Syria, Clinton said Syrian President Bashar Assad could fit the definition of a war criminal. She said, however, she is reluctant to use the term.

"I think that based on definitions of war criminal and crimes against humanity, there would be an argument to be made that he would fit into that category," Clinton said, adding, however, that charging Assad as such would limit options in persuading him to step down from power.

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