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Clinton: US now ready to listen

UNITED States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday relentlessly hammered home the Obama administration's message that America is under new management and ready to listen and engage the world.

"When the United States is absent, people believe that we are not interested and that can create a vacuum that destructive forces can fill," she told a group of journalists after meeting with Indonesia's leader on the second leg of a week-long Asia tour. "We don't want to be absent. We want to be present."

Earlier, she took to the airwaves, appearing on a popular youth show in the world's most populous Muslim nation to deliver her message and bring greetings from President Barack Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia.

"There is so much excitement in the air here," she told an enthusiastic studio audience on the MTV-style "Dahsyat" show, which translates into English as "Awesome."

Clinton said she had just spoken with the US president, who wished them all well, drawing cheers.

Much of her appearance was lighthearted banter about her favorite music - the Beatles and Rolling Stones - and her poor singing abilities, but she also made clear that the US wants to address Muslim concerns about US policy in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Bush bashing

Asked about the topic, which has deeply troubled Indonesians, Clinton took a shot at the Bush administration when explaining why she and Obama had appointed a special envoy to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict immediately after taking office. "We felt like the United States had not been as active in trying to bring the parties together to resolve the conflict," she said.

"We're going to work very hard to resolve what has been such a painful and difficult conflict for so many years."

Clinton, who later left for South Korea, and will go on to visit China today, said she would attend a March 2 donors' conference in Egypt for rebuilding Gaza.

The first stop on her four-nation Asia tour was Japan.


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