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Clinton issues warnings on Afghanistan, Syria

By Elise Labott, CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter
updated 8:24 AM EST, Sun February 26, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Clinton says criticism of Obama's apology for Quran burning is "troubling"
  • Some Republicans have condemned the president's remarks
  • International powers are trying to peel support away from Syria's president, Clinton says
  • Clinton defends a partisan political remark to an audience in Tunisia

Rabat, Morocco (CNN) -- Criticism of President Barack Obama's apology for the burning of Qurans in Afghanistan is not helpful, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday in a wide-ranging interview with CNN.

"I find it somewhat troubling that our politics would enflame such a dangerous situation in Afghanistan," Clinton said of the complaints by Republican presidential candidates and some experts about Obama's apology.

Obama apologized Thursday in a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the burning of Qurans, which he called "inadvertent" and an "error."

"It was the right thing to do to have our president on record as saying this was not intentional, we deeply regret it," Clinton said.

At least four American troops have been killed in apparent revenge attacks in the past week, and dozens of Afghans have been killed or wounded in protests about the incident.

"We are hoping that voices inside Afghanistan will join that of President Karzai and others in speaking out to try to calm the situation," Clinton said. "It is out of hand and it needs to stop."

Clinton also said diplomatic efforts were under way to peel away support from Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.

"We have a lot of contacts, as do other countries -- a lot of sources within the Syrian government and the business community and minority communities -- and our message is the same to all of them: 'You cannot continue to support this illegitimate regime because it is going to fall,'" she said.

But she said the Syrian National Council was not yet the kind of united opposition movement that toppled Moammar Gadhafi with international help in Libya last year.

The Libyan opposition base in the city of Beghazi gave the international community "an address" to deal with.

"We don't have that in Syria," she said. "The Syrian National Council is doing the best it can but obviously it is not yet a united opposition."

Clinton also defended telling an audience in Tunisia Saturday that Obama would be re-elected.

"I was asked whether the comments in the primary campaign, some of which have been quite inflammatory, represented America," she said, adding that they did not necessarily. "I represent America."

As America's top diplomat, Clinton would not normally make political statements to a foreign audience.

"Probably my enthusiasm for the president got a little out of hand," Clinton said with a laugh.

But she said her comments were appropriate.

"I know what happens in campaigns. I've been there, done that, and I know that things are said that are not going to be put into practice or policy," she said. "I did think I needed to point that out to the audience."

Clinton ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008, losing out to Obama.

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