Egypt Looms Over Diplomatic Huddle in Washington

By Kristina

Feb 2, 2011 2:12pm

ABC News’ Kirit Radia reports: Today Secretary Clinton convened an unprecedented gathering of American ambassadors from around the world to talk about how they will address global challenges in an era of shrinking budgets, but the political upheaval in Egypt clearly loomed over the meetings.

“We’ve wanted to do this for some time.  We figured early February would be quiet, not much going on. What better time to pull you from your posts and responsibilities?” Clinton joked in a speech to open the conference, referencing the unrest in Egypt that has dominated the headlines and her schedule.

The US Ambassador to Egypt, Margaret Scobey, was not in attendance as she has been tending to the crisis in Cairo.

“As we see with what’s going on today, recent events in Egypt and certainly in that broader region, remind us all how crucial it is to have top-notch leadership on the ground, and how quickly that ground can shift under our feet.  So whether your mission is large or small, whether you’re a political appointee or a career diplomat, you are all on the front lines of America’s engagement with a fast-changing world.  And that’s why we think this conference is so important,” Clinton said.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said the crisis in Egypt was a good example of the U.S. military supporting civilian leadership, perhaps a reference to his own frequent contacts with the Egyptian military throughout the crisis.

“It hasn’t just been a 1.3 billion dollar investment in Egypt over the last 30 years. It hasn’t been just dollars, and it hasn’t just been a military investment in their armed services, which have been a critical part. It has been an investment on the part of the United States that goes back actually a long way, even further back than 30 years,” he said, pointing to the long, close relationship between the United States and Egypt that predates President Hosni Mubarak’s time in power and transcends the military relationship that commands much attention.

Clinton called all of her ambassadors back to Washington for this conference to discuss a report her teams have compiled called the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, which maps out long-term goals in order to justify budget requests to Congress.

“From the theft of confidential cables to 21st century protest movements to development breakthroughs that have the potential to change millions of lives, we are all in uncharted territory, and that requires us to be more nimble, more innovative, and more accountable than ever before,” Clinton said.

Clinton said she would confront Congress about the staggering number of reports they demand from the department, tying up critical resources. She also said she would continue redeploying resources from peaceful posts in Europe to hotspots around the world.

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