Image: Sec of State Hillary Clinton
TIM SLOAN  /  AFP/Getty Images
Sec. of State Hillary Clinton tells the Senate Appropriations Committee, "Our goal is to persuade the Iranian regime that they will actually be less secure if they proceed with their nuclear weapons program."
updated 5/20/2009 11:42:08 AM ET 2009-05-20T15:42:08

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday that a nuclear-armed Iran is "going to spark an arms race" in the Middle East.

In an appearance before a Senate Appropriations panel, Clinton reiterated that the Obama administration opposes Iran getting a nuclear weapons capability and that it is relying for now on diplomatic pressure to stop it. Amid reports that Iran has conducted a missile test, Clinton said that a wide array of threats, including attempts by terrorists to obtain nuclear weapons, represent a "daunting" challenge for the United States.

Clinton also described a nuclear capability in Tehran as an "extraordinary threat," and said the U.S. goal is "to persuade the Iranian regime that they will actually be less secure if they proceed with their nuclear weapons program."

The secretary said she did not expect there would be any significant progress in getting Iran to enter into discussions on incentives to abandon a nuclear program at a time when there is a campaign there for the presidency.

"Our goal is to persuade the Iranian regime that they will actually be less secure if they proceed with their nuclear weapons program," Clinton told the Senate panel.

She said that while there is a lot of discussion about timetables, "the goal is the same: a nuclear armed Iran with a deliverable weapon system is going to spark an arms race in the Middle East" and the greater region.

"That is not going to be in the interest of Iranian security," Clinton added. "At the same time, we see a growing recognition among a group of countries that they do not want to see this reality take place."

She said that she did not know when the U.S. might "see some openness and some willingness to engage on this very important issue," but likely not during Iran's election season. "But we are going to pursue our diplomatic efforts," Clinton said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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