Clinton: We support Israel against Syria, Iran

By Jessica Elgot, April 30, 2010
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The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has restated the US’s firm commitment to Israel’s security and has warned Iran and Syria against supplying weapons to Gaza and Hizbollah.

In a speech to the American Jewish Committee, Mrs Clinton underlined her commitment to peace in the region, and condemned the transfer of weapons from Syria to terrorists in Gaza and to Hizbollah in Lebanon.

Israel is becoming increasingly concerned over the possible transfer of Scud missiles to Hizbollah, which would allow terrorists to hit Israeli targets more easily.

Mrs Clinton said: "Transferring weapons to these terrorists, especially longer-range missiles, would pose a serious threat to the security of Israel."

She also spoke of her fears that a nuclear-armed Iran could cause widespread conflict in the Middle East.

"These threats to Israel's security are real, they are growing and they must be addressed. Israel is confronting some of the toughest challenges in her history."

The US is currently considering renewing its diplomatic relations with Damascus, which has been without a US ambassador for five years. The decision to renew relations relies on a yet-to-be-received promise from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to stop supplying weapons to Hizbollah.

Mrs Clinton argued that to agree to send an ambassador to Syria would not be a concession. She said: "It would be a tool that can give us added leverage and insight and a greater ability to convey strong and unmistakably clear messages aimed at changing Syria's behaviour.”

"President Assad is making decisions that could mean war or peace for the region. We know he's hearing from Iran, Hizbollah and Hamas. It is crucial that he also hear directly from us, so that the potential consequences of his actions are clear."

US Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell is due back in the region next week in the hope he can kickstart new indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which he hopes will be endorsed after his meeting with Arab League diplomats this weekend.

Last updated: 4:47pm, April 30 2010