- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 11, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. officials on Sunday made a big push for President Obama’s new nuclear pact with Russia and downplayed tensions between the Obama administration and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Mr. Gates said Sunday that the agreement signed this past week reflects the rapidly changing nature of the nuclear threat.

Mrs. Clinton said there’s a serious threat that nuclear materials could fall into the hands of terrorist groups such as al Qaeda.

As for Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Mr. Gates said it will take a combination of economic pressure, better missile defense and cooperation with Mideast countries to rein in Tehran.

The two administration officials also said Mr. Karzai has a positive relationship with the Obama administration despite recent tensions.

Mr. Gates and Mrs. Clinton said Mr. Karzai and the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan meet regularly and have a positive relationship. Mrs. Clinton said Mr. Karzai’s living under extraordinary stress.

Mr. Karzai hosted Iran’s leader last month and has spoken of the United States trying to dominate Afghanistan.

Mr. Obama, who visited Afghanistan on March 28, has called Mr. Karzai “a critical partner” in fighting terrorism. Mr. Karzai is supposed to visit Washington on May 12.

Mr. Gates and Mrs. Clinton appeared on ABC’s “This Week,” NBC’s “Meet the Press” and CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

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