US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that Israel had a right to defend itself and that Palestinian rocket attacks on the Jewish territory could not go unanswered.
"We support Israel's right to self-defense. The (Palestinian) rocket barrages which are getting closer and closer to populated areas (in Israel) cannot go unanswered," Clinton said in her first news conference at the State Department.
"It is regrettable that the Hamas leadership apparently believes that it is in their interest to provoke the right of self-defense instead of building a better future for the people of Gaza," she added.
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Shifting to the topic of Iran, Clinton noted that Iran now has a chance to show the world it is ready to "engage meaningfully."
During his campaign and since taking office a week ago,
US President Barack Obama has stressed that he is willing to engage with nations such as Iran, which the United States accuses of seeking nuclear weapons and sponsoring terrorism.
On Monday, echoing the language of his inaugural address, Obama told the al-Arabiya satellite channel in an interview that "If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us."
Asked about Obama's comment, Clinton suggested it may be up to the Iranians to make the first move.
"There is a clear opportunity for the Iranians, as the president expressed in his interview, to demonstrate some willingness to engage meaningfully with the international community," Clinton told reporters. "Whether or not that hand becomes less clenched is really up to them."
Clinton would not be drawn out on how the Obama administration might choose to deal with Iran or how it would judge whether the Iranians might be willing to hold wider talks with the United States.
"As we look at the opportunities available to us, we are going to have a very broad survey of what we think we can do," Clinton added in her first news conference as secretary of state. "There is just a lot that we are considering that I am not prepared (to discuss)."