Clinton warns against US aid cuts

Secretary of state urges legislators not to cut overseas funding, saying doing so would harm US interests.

    Clinton said cutting civilian and military overseas spending would harm the interests of the US [GALLO/GETTY]

    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged legislators not to cut funds needed to deal with crisis abroad, saying the current unrest in Libya is showing the need to keep diplomacy well-funded.

    Clinton also told Republican legislators that their proposed cuts overseas spending for 2012 would hurt US efforts to roll back the insurgency in Afghanistan, build a stable, democratic Iraq and contain Iran's nuclear ambitions.

    "In the years ahead, Libya could become a peaceful democracy or it could face protracted civil war, or it could descend into chaos," Clinton told the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

    "The entire [Middle East] region is changing, and a strong and strategic American response will be essential."

    The turmoil in Libya, where Muammar Gaddafi is trying to crush a revolt, was an example of how Washington had to use its diplomatic and defence assets as well as development aid to "protect our interests and advance our values," she told the legislators.

    Clinton spoke a day after the US began moving warships and aircraft closer to Libya, and froze $30 billion in assets, stepping up pressure on Gaddafi to give up power.

    Aid to Libya

    The US Agency for International Development is sending two humanitarian teams to the region to help provide food and medicine to Libyans fleeing into Tunisia and Egypt.

    "We are taking no options off the table so long as the Libyan government continues to turn its guns on its own people," she said.

    Clinton was invited to testify to the House panel in defence of President Barack Obama's $47 billion budget request for the State Department and the USAID. That is up 1 per cent from 2010 levels.

    Republicans, who took control of the House in November elections, have called for a tough new look at non-military
    overseas spending amid widespread calls to control the soaring US federal deficit.

    Retreating from international responsibilities often imposed long-term costs, Clinton said, as happened in Afghanistan
    when the US "walked away" after the Cold War ended and Soviet troops had gone home.

    "We saved money in the short term. But those savings came at an unspeakable cost - one we are still paying, 10 years
    later, in money and lives," she said.

    Obama has proposed spending almost $110 billion in 2012 on Afghanistan, where he has pledged to begin withdrawing the first of about 100,000 US troops fighting the Taliban by the middle of this year.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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