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Wed 11 Mar 2015 12:13 PM

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Hillary Clinton blasts US Republicans over Iran nuclear letter

Open letter to Tehran's leaders, signed by 47 Republican senators, has sparked a political firestorm in Washington

Hillary Clinton blasts US Republicans over Iran nuclear letter
"And one has to ask, what was the purpose of this letter?" Clinton said. (Getty Images)

Former
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday excoriated Republican senators
for their letter warning Iran against a nuclear deal with President Barack
Obama, saying they either were trying to help Tehran or harm the US
commander-in-chief.

Monday's open
letter to Iran's leaders, signed by 47 Republican senators, sparked a political
firestorm.

Vice President
Joe Biden also sharply criticised the lawmakers while three potential 2016
Republican presidential candidates, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former
Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, threw
their support behind the letter.

Clinton, a
likely Democratic presidential candidate, said the Obama administration is in
the midst of intense negotiations for a diplomatic solution to close off Iran's
pathway to a nuclear bomb and provide unprecedented access to its nuclear
program.

"And one
has to ask, what was the purpose of this letter?" Clinton said in an
appearance at the United Nations.

"There
appear to be two logical answers. Either these senators were trying to be
helpful to the Iranians or harmful to the commander-in-chief in the midst of
high-stakes international diplomacy. Either answer does discredit to the
letters' signatories," Clinton added.

Biden said in a
statement on Monday night the letter was "expressly designed to undercut a
sitting president in the midst of sensitive international negotiations"
and was "beneath the dignity" of the Senate.

"This
letter, in the guise of a constitutional lesson, ignores two centuries of
precedent and threatens to undermine the ability of any future American
president, whether Democrat or Republican, to negotiate with other nations on
behalf of the United States," Biden wrote.

Biden said he
could not recall another instance in which senators wrote such a letter to
advise another country, much less a longtime adversary.

In the letter,
the Republicans told Iran's leaders any nuclear deal with Obama could last only
while he remains in office.

Senator Tom
Cotton, who spearheaded the letter, on Tuesday defended it and questioned
Biden's foreign policy wisdom.

"The only
thing unprecedented is an American president negotiating a nuclear weapons deal
with the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism without seeking
congressional approval at the end of that deal," Cotton told CNN.

Jindal said on
Twitter that anyone thinking of running for president from either party should
sign the letter to make clear Iran is negotiating with a "lame duck"
president.

Jindal said
Biden owes an apology to Cotton, a first-term senator from Arkansas who served
in the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan. "He wore the boots in Iraq. He's
earned our attention, not your insults," Jindal said.

Many
Republicans contend Obama is so eager for a nuclear deal that he would sign off
on an agreement leaving Iran able to easily make a nuclear weapon.

World powers
and Iran are trying to reach a framework agreement this month and a final deal
by June to curb Iran's nuclear program in exchange for easing sanctions. Iran
says the program is for peaceful purposes only.

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