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Clinton vows to fight Republican aid cuts

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned Congress that she will fight to block a Republican push to restrict aid for Israel’s Arab neighbors and Pakistan and cut off climate change funds.

Two panels in the Republican-led House of Representatives have approved billions of dollars in cuts in foreign affairs spending and imposed a range of new restrictions concerning issues from the Middle East to abortion.

Clinton voiced “profound concern” about a bill approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She told its chair, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, that she would ask President Barack Obama to veto the measure if it came to his desk.

The restrictions in the bill “would be debilitating to my efforts to carry out a considered foreign policy and diplomacy, and to use foreign assistance strategically to that end,” Clinton wrote Ros-Lehtinen in a letter Tuesday.

“Should this bill be presented to the president, I will recommend personally that he veto the bill.”

But even without a veto, it remains unclear if the bill will survive. Obama and Clinton‘s Democratic Party retains control of the Senate after losing the House of Representatives in elections last year.

Senator John Kerry, a close Obama ally who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, submitted his own legislation on Wednesday that would defend a number of administration priorities, including aid for climate change.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved $6.4 billion in cuts from Obama‘s budget requests in a marathon two-day debate last week, in which Republicans said that the United States — on the brink of defaulting on its debt — needed to cut foreign spending and toughen its line against US rivals.

Clinton charged that the bill had “crippling restrictions on security assistance where maximum flexibility is needed,” pointing to cuts on aid to Arab states including Egypt, which is transitioning to democracy.

The House bill would bar defense aid to Egypt, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority and Yemen if extremist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah and Hamas are part of the government.

The measure would also impose conditions on civilian aid to Pakistan, ending a five-year, $7.5 billion package without proof that the country where Osama bin Laden was killed in May is acting against militants.

However, the House committee defeated a proposal that would have ended all aid to Pakistan from the start of the next fiscal year in October.

The Obama administration recently suspended a third of US defense aid to Pakistan over similar concerns. But it has pledged to pursue long-term civilian assistance in hopes of nurturing an environment less friendly to extremism.

The House bill barred aid for climate change. Developed countries, including the European Union and Japan, have promised some $100 billion a year to worst-hit poor countries starting in 2020 as part of a global deal to fight rising temperatures.

The House panel also voted to cut funding to leftist-led Latin American nations and to force the United States to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a sticking point in Middle East peace negotiations.

In one item that caused sharp disagreement, the House bill would prevent US funding to any foreign non-governmental group involved in abortion.

A subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, which is in charge of spending, moved ahead on a similar bill that would authorize $47.7 billion for foreign affairs, rolling back numerous Obama initiatives.

“In this difficult geopolitical and economic climate, the American people deserve a policy that is based on American principles, looks out for American interests and wisely invests American dollars,” said Congresswoman Kay Granger, the Republican who heads the subcommittee.

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