NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Wednesday, March 4th 2009
By Matthew Kalman
SPECIAL TO THE NEWS
RAMALLAH, WEST BANK - Hillary Clinton teamed up with embattled West Bank Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday in telling Iran to butt out of the region.
In wrapping up her first Mideast trip as secretary of state, Clinton joined with the Palestinian Authority president in denouncing the call of Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for all Muslims to join the "resistance" to Israel."We are sending a message to the Iranians and others: Stop interfering in our affairs," said Abbas, who is locked in a power struggle in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
On a brief stop in Ramallah, Clinton charged that the Iranians "are interfering only to deepen the rift between Palestinians." The Iranians were seeking to "intimidate as far as they think their voice can reach," Clinton said.
In Tehran, Khamenei said in a statement that "support and help to Palestinians is a mandatory duty of all Muslims. I now tell all Muslim brothers and sisters to join forces and break the immunity of the Zionist criminals."
The hugs and kisses that marked Clinton's earlier visit to Jerusalem were markedly absent from her more formal meetings with Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayyad.In response to a reporter's question, Clinton voiced her only negative note about Israeli policy, branding a decision to evict 1,400 Palestinians in East Jerusalem and destroy 88 homes there as "unhelpful."
Clinton also visited a U.S.-supported school providing English-language instruction for high school students and announced a series of scholarships and exchange programs to bring more Palestinians to U.S. universities.
Abbas' presidency, which officially expired in January, is to be shored up by $600 million in U.S. aid and training for his security forces, whose main objective has been to prevent his regime from being overthrown by Hamas.
In Gaza, Hamas officials dismissed Clinton's repeated declarations of support for Israel as "a slap in the face of those who were expecting changes in America foreign policy."
With Richard Sisk in Washington