Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Iran's continued efforts to develop a nuclear weapons program "unacceptable" Tuesday and hinted at possible military action to stop it.
"This is an unacceptable path that they must stop or action will have to be taken," Clinton told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren, choosing her words carefully.
"At this point, we are continuing to keep the pressure on them in the pressure track and making it clear that, you know, there's not going to be any alternative but to deny them a nuclear weapons program."
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Asked specifically by Van Susteren about the possibility of a military response, Clinton replied: "Well, we've always said all options are on the table. The president has been very clear about that."
However, Clinton stressed the importance of continuing to negotiate with Tehran and keeping up sanctions, which she insisted were helping to keep Iran isolated from the international community.
"Our policy is prevention, not containment," she said. "And we have through the hard work we've undertaken with the international community, imposed the toughest set of sanctions, international and bilateral on any country. We know it's having an effect.
"We have a great deal of evidence about the economic impact that the sanctions are having on the Iranian economy, and, therefore, on the political and clerical leadership," she added.
But Clinton said there was still much more to be done, including further sanctions on Iran. She also said U.S. efforts were continuing to help contain Iran's terrorist activities, which she said "we sometimes overlook" because of the focus on its nuclear efforts.
"That has been a very ongoing threat," Clinton said, referring to what she called "the very active efforts" of the Iranians and "their proxies like the Lebanese Hezbollah and others, who have engaged in assassinations, bombings, destabilizing countries."
"When I came into office, there were too many countries that were turning a blind eye to it," she said. "We have worked very hard to get the international community, particularly the [Middle East] region, Europe and elsewhere, to say, 'Wait a minute, these guys need to be stopped on the terrorism front. They cannot be permitted to go forward.'"
In summing up her comments on Iran, Clinton declared, "I'm from the trust-but-verify camp when it comes to Iran."
She said Tehran continues to insist that it is not trying to develop nuclear weapons. "But we have a body of evidence that points in the other direction," she added.
"I mean if that is true, then why are they developing a missile program that has intercontinental ballistic capacity? You know, why are they adding centrifuges and more enriched uranium as a result?
"They owe the international community . . . an explanation as to what they're doing if they claim they're not pursuing nuclear weapons."
The Van Susteren interview was one of the last Clinton planned to give before officially turning over the reins of the State Department on Friday to her replacement, Sen. John Kerry, who was confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday.
She acknowledged that he would likely be as busy as she was traveling and dealing with critical issues, especially the Arab revolutions in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and elsewhere that she said are still going through "a period of adjustment."
"What we have to work for . . . is not to see these revolutions hijacked by extremists, not to see the return of dictatorial rule, the absence of rule of law," Clinton said, adding: "And it's hard. It's hard going from decades under one party or one man rule, as somebody said, waking up from a political coma and understanding democracy.
"So we have a lot at stake in trying to keep moving these transformations in the right direction."
Clinton also offered her thoughts on Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, now dealing with an outbreak of violent protests demanding his resignation. Egyptian opposition leaders have called for the creation of a "national salvation government."
The secretary, again, chose her words carefully, saying the Obama administration had been "quite concerned" about anti-American statements made by Morsi and steps he took to grant himself what amounted to near dictatorial powers.
But she said she believes that Morsi "has a lot of the right intentions." She stressed his involvement in helping her to negotiate the ceasefire in Gaza at the end of last year, which she noted is still holding.
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"But, you know, the jury is still out," she added. "You know, I've been around long enough to [know] . . . it's not what somebody says, it's what they do," she added. "And some of what he's done, we have approved of and supported.
And some of what he's done, like abrogating a lot of power unto himself personally, reinstating emergency law provisions that had been a hallmark of the Mubarak regime, are very troubling.
"And, you know, we have a balancing act to do, as do the Egyptian people, as to how this is going to turn out."
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