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Germany

Steinmeier Vows to Work Together With Clinton on Mideast, Iran

Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier telephoned with his US counterpart Hillary Clinton Thursday as new US President Obama named high power envoys to the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Hillary Clinton, left, sits next to Barack Obama

Hillary Clinton is the new face of US diplomacy

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday promised to work together with newly-appointed US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a range of pressing foreign policy issues as new US President Barack Obama named high-profile envoys to the crisis-ridden Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Former senator and Northern Ireland peace mediator George Mitchell was appointed to bring peace between the Palestinians and Israelis in the Middle East. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the architect of the Dayton Accords which ended the Bosnian war, was charged with implementing US policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Barack Obama told a press conference he would send Mitchell to the region "as soon as possible" to ensure a "durable" and "sustainable" ceasefire in Gaza.

Germany to work with US on Mideast, Iran

Steinmeier's office said Thursday the German foreign minister had telephoned with Clinton and agreed to meet soon.

Steinmeier "thanked his American counterpart for her government's determination to quickly engage itself in the Middle East conflict," the German foreign ministry said in a statement.

Earlier, in a letter of congratulations to the new secretary of state, Steinmeier said he intended to build on strong US-German ties.

"Let us work together to find solutions for the great challenges of our time starting from the solid German-American relationship that has closely and amicably connected us," Steinmeier wrote.

He said important points for cooperation will be conflict in the Middle East, climate change, Iran’s nuclear programme and the financial crisis.

Clinton took her place in Barack Obama's new cabinet, a day after he was sworn in as US president.

On Thursday, a beaming Clinton greeted her new colleagues at the US State Department, promising a change in how the United States deals with the rest of the world.

Clinton was President Barack Obama's Democratic rival. After his win in November of 2008, Clinton became Obama's surprise choice to oversee the 20,000-strong US State Department.

"I believe with all my heart that this is a new era for America," Clinton told a crowd of State Department employees who had gathered to welcome the former Democratic senator from New York to her first day as America's top diplomat.

Steinmeier, right, with Israeli President Shimon Peres

Steinmeier, seen here with Israeli President Shimon Peres, is pushing for a lasting solution to the Mideast conflict

In his letter, Steinmeier reminded Clinton of the long friendship between Germany and the United States and said he expected the relationship to be further strengthened under Obama.

He said that he supported Clinton's goal of creating a world "with more friends and fewer opponents" and overcoming "hate, violence, lawlessness and despair."

"I would like to offer you my full support for this policy," he wrote.

Clinton has said she will advocate the use of "smart power" -- which combines diplomatic and economic influence with military strength -- to reach US objectives in the world.

Clinton, whose husband is former US President Bill Clinton, took over the State Department reigns from outgoing US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

US mum on whether it will talk with Iran

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Steinmeier wants the US to directly talk with Iran

Germany is one of six countries working together in a bid to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. Steinmeier has long called on Washington to consider direct talks with the leadership in Tehran.

At her confirmation hearing last week, Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Obama administration would pursue "an attitude toward engagement (with Iran) that might bear fruit."

But she did not mention whether Washington would set conditions for such a change in US policy after nearly 30 years of official silence with Tehran.

US wants to lead on climate change

The planet earth as seen from space

Clinton said the US wants to take a lead role in climate protection

Clinton also made it clear that the Obama administration planned to make climate change a priority.

"We will pursue an energy policy that reduces our carbon emissions while reducing our dependence on foreign oil and gas, fighting climate change and enhancing our economic and energy security," Clinton said.

She told her audience that the Obama administration wanted the US to be "a leader in developing and implementing a global and coordinated response to climate change."

Middle East remains a top concern

As for the recent conflict between Israel and Palestine, Clinton said the new administration will commit itself to reaching "a just and lasting peace agreement."

Other foreign relations priorities for Clinton will be the unfinished wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, conflicts in Africa and efforts to revamp the tarnished US image overseas.

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