Clinton Praises Iran Protests, Raises Alarm Over Budget Cuts

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton applauded news from Iran that thousands of protesters demonstrated there today, demanding change, and compared the situation to Egypt, where Hosni Mubarak was thrown out of power last week, after more than 30 years.

"We support the universal human rights of the Iranian people," Clinton said. "They deserve to have the same rights that they saw being played out in Egypt and that are part of their own birthright, and … we think that there needs to be a commitment to open up the political system in Iran, to hear the voices of the opposition in civil society."

Clinton said she wanted to "very clearly and directly support the aspirations of the people who are in the streets." She maintained that the U.S. is against violence, and supported the demonstrations there are a testament to the courage of the Iranian people and an indictment on the Iranian regime.

"Our message has been consistent and it remains the same," Clinton added. "We wish the opposition and the brave people in the streets across cities in Iran, you know, the same opportunity that they saw their Egyptian counterpart seize in the last week."

As for Egypt itself, where protesters last week forced President Hosni Mubarak out of office and the military took control of the country, Clinton said the U.S. will help the military in any way it can.

She said that the steps that the Egyptian military has taken since taking control are "reassuring" and that the U.S. is ready to assist them.

"The ongoing dialogue between our defense and military leadership with theirs has been very fruitful and I expect it to continue," Clinton said.

Clinton spoke with reporters after meeting with House Speaker John Boehner about funding for the State Department. The secretary said she told Boehner about her "deep concerns" over the budget cuts her department will face, in the near-term in the House GOP's proposal to fund the government through September, and it's call for further cuts in the next full fiscal year. She called the scope of the cuts "massive" and "detrimental to America's national security." Budget Fights Loom for State Department

Clinton warned that if the cuts are implemented, the U.S. cannot make progress on democracy throughout the world, and she pointed specifically to civilian efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Republican leaders have vowed to cut the department's budget, even as the State Department prepares to take over operations in Iraq. Clinton handed Boehner a copy of a letter she had sent to Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, arguing against proposed cuts to the fiscal year 2011 budget which are also being debated.

In her letter, Clinton pointed out that the committee's allocation for the State Department and USAID budget is 16 percent less than actual funding for the previous year, and a 19% cut to the department's 2011 request. Humanitarian assistance budgets would also be reduced by 41% from proposed 2010 levels.

"Cuts of this magnitude will be devastating to our national security, will render us unable to respond to unanticipated disasters, and will damage our leadership in the world," Clinton wrote.

The Obama administration was on the other side of the budget cutting debate just last week. Curing the crisis in Egypt, the White House was criticized for cutting funds authorized under President George W. Bush, for democracy and good governance programs in Egypt.

The budget cuts for the State Department now being proposed by the Republicans goes to the very heart of the foreign policy debate.

During a committee hearing last week, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., challenged Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg about the utility of foreign aid.

"Borrowing more money from China in order to give it to other people in different countries is not something that I consider to be a positive option. It's crazy. It's insane," Rohrabacher said.

Today, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley defended America's foreign assistance programs, saying that recent events in Egypt illustrate the need to remain engaged with the world.

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