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Clinton: Engagement in Iran's hands

From NBC's Andrea Mitchell and Libby Leist
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton fleshed out today how the Obama administration plans to approach Iran.

"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 said. "Whether or not that hand becomes less clenched is really up to them. But as we look at the opportunities available to us, we're going to have a very broad survey of what we think we can do."

She added that whether the U.S. hand is extended is "really up to them [the Iranian leadership]."

In his first television interview from the White House last night, notably to the Arab network Al Arabiya, Obama made a similar appeal to Iran.

"I do think that it is important for us to be willing to talk to Iran to express very clearly where our differences are," the president said, "but where there are potential avenues for progress. …And as I said during my inauguration speech, if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us."

Also yesterday at the U.N., U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice made some waves by saying, "We look forward to engaging in vigorous diplomacy that includes direct diplomacy with Iran."

Asked about Rice's comments today, Clinton said Rice was reiterating what Obama had said on the campaign trail and that nobody should be surprised about the administration's willingness to reach out to Iran.

On the Middle East, Clinton expressed concern about today's breach of the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. George Mitchell arrived in Cairo today, and Clinton stressed that he is there to listen and will report back to her and the president.

On China, Clinton stressed the importance of working with China on a "comprehensive" strategy during the economic crisis, seeming to take a step back from the more confrontational approach that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner took in written responses to the Senate Finance Committee last week.

Geithner suggested concerns about China's currency manipulation, concerns that if carried out could eventually lead to sanctions. His remarks were viewed in China as a big departure from previous U.S. policy.

Clinton told reporters that in her calls with foreign leaders so far, "there is a great exhalation of breath" around the world now that Obama is in the White House. But when pressed, she said that was not meant to be a "repudiation or indictment" of the Bush years.