Clinton admits WikiLeaks will dominate the rest of her life

By Cahal Milmo
Wednesday 12 January 2011 01:00

Outwardly, Hillary Clinton's progress through the capitals of America's most crucial Middle Eastern allies in recent days has been to bolster support for the war on terror. Privately, she admits it is also an "apology tour" aimed at undoing the damage caused by the WikiLeaks revelations.

The American Secretary of State, who was yesterday in Yemen on the latest stage of a three-day series of meetings with Arab leaders, broke off from discussions about the effectiveness of sanctions on Iran and al-Qa'ida activity in the Arabian Peninsula to tell aides she needed a tour jacket, like those worn by rock band roadies, with a "big picture of the world and would say 'The Apology Tour' on it".

The disclosure of the first tranche of more than 250,000 toe-curlingly frank diplomatic memos held by WikiLeaks has caused Washington particular embarrassment in the Middle East, where countries in close proximity to Iran, including Saudi Arabia, are known to have been unhappy at the revelation that they were privately urging a tougher line against the regime in Tehran.

The cables also revealed Saudi suggestions for a pan-Arab force to crush Hezbollah in Lebanon and the view of the Tunisian president that Syria acts as an Iranian proxy in the Middle East.

Mrs Clinton, who is on her second trip to the region in a month, told the Washington Post that she had tried where possible to "affirmatively raise" the WikiLeaks issue with her hosts to show that the problems were being tackled. The international face of the Obama administration conceded it would take a period of years to undo the damage caused by the leaks: "I think I will be answering concerns about WikiLeaks for the rest of my life, not just the rest of my tenure as Secretary of State."

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