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U.S. risks losing "Arab Spring" opportunity: Clinton

Aug 16, 2011, 12:58 p.m.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton takes part in a televised conversation at the National Defense University in Washington August 16, 2011. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Clinton said that despite the financial constraints, the United States remained the world's leading power -- but was using that power, as in the case of the internationally-backed campaign against Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, to build alliances and share burdens with other countries.

"This is exactly the kind of world that I want to see, where it's not just the United States and everybody is standing on the sidelines while we bear the costs, while we bear the sacrifice, while our men and women...lay down their lives for universal values," she said.

Clinton and Panetta, while saying everything was on the table for cuts, pointedly noted that any realistic revamp of U.S. finances should include mandated spending such as government-run health insurance and retirement programs as well as possible new taxes -- something many Republicans staunchly oppose.

Clinton said the weak U.S. financial position had cast a pall over her efforts to expand U.S. engagement overseas to face security challenges ranging from the struggle against al Qaeda to the rise of China in the Pacific.

"We need to have a responsible conversation about how we're going to prepare ourselves for the future," Clinton said.

"We've got to be competitive. We can't just hope, we have to work and we have to make a strong case for the continuing leadership of the United States."

(additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed; editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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