US will prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapon: Kerry

Senator John Kerry has stressed that a helping hand as well as military strength should be the characteristic features of the US foreign policy.

Updated: Jan 25, 2013, 09:26 AM IST

Zeenews Bureau

Washington: Senator John Kerry – President Barack Obama`s choice for the position of US Secretary of State – has stressed that a helping hand as well as military strength should be the characteristic features of the US foreign policy.

Kerry said this while testifying at his four-hour long confirmation hearing on Thursday.

At the hearing, the Democrat from Massachusetts talked about Iran, Syria, climate change and a host of other issues. Present at the hearing were members of the Foreign Relations Committee, reported an international news agency.

Kerry had been the member of the same panel for 28 years and its chairman for the last four.

The current secretary, Hillary Rodham Clinton, introduced Kerry, calling him "the right choice". She is stepping down after four years.

The committee is expected to approve Kerry`s nomination. A full Senate vote will take place ON Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.

"American foreign policy is not defined by drones and deployments alone," Kerry said in outlining his views. "We cannot allow the extraordinary good we do to save and change lives to be eclipsed entirely by the role we have had to play since September 11, a role that was thrust upon us."

Kerry spoke out strongly for dealing with climate change, providing food and energy security and humanitarian assistance. He also spoke of robust foreign aid, but he insisted that the country must get its fiscal house in order to lead in the world.

"More than ever, foreign policy is economic policy," said Kerry, who described himself as a "recovering member of the super-committee". That bipartisan panel failed in 2011 in its mandate to come up with a deficit-cutting plan.

Faced with Iran`s nuclear program, Kerry said the United States will do what it must to prevent Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but he also signalled that diplomacy remains a viable option.

"I repeat here today: Our policy is not containment. It is prevention, and the clock is ticking on our efforts to secure responsible compliance," Kerry said.

The Senator said he was hopeful that the US and other nations could make progress on the diplomatic front, but that Tehran needs to relent and agree to intrusive inspections.

"If their program is peaceful, they can prove it," he said.

In an unexpected exchange, Kerry found himself defending Obama`s pick of Republican Chuck Hagel to be the next Defence Secretary against GOP criticism.

"I know Chuck Hagel. And I think he is a strong, patriotic former senator, and he will be a strong Secretary of Defence," Kerry said.

The Massachusetts Senator also urged lawmakers to be realistic, arguing that an 80 percent cut is an aspiration that would be unlikely in the current climate.

On Syria, Kerry was asked about his outreach to President Bashar Assad, now an international pariah after months of civil war and unending violence against his citizens.

Kerry said there was a moment where Syria reached out to the West but that the moment has long passed.

(With Agency inputs)