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Clinton Calls Iran Nuclear Pursuit 'Futile'

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her recent visit to India
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that Iran would not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon and reiterated Washington's commitment to protect close ally Israel from any threat posed by Tehran.

"Your [Iran's] pursuit is futile," she told NBC's "Meet the Press" program, adding that Iran did not have the right to develop a nuclear weapon.

"It is unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons," she added.

Clinton annoyed ally Israel last week by saying the United States would cope with a nuclear Iran by arming its allies in the Gulf and extending a "defense umbrella" over the region.

A senior Israeli official said the United States should focus on preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon rather than talking as if this may be a fait accompli.

"We are not talking in specifics, because that would come later if at all. My view is you hope for the best, plan for the worst," said Clinton on July 26, defending the comments she made while in Thailand last week.

Several senior U.S. officials, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and national security adviser James Jones, will be in Israel this week, seeking to reassure the Jewish state.

"We have a long, durable relationship with Israel. We believe strongly that Israel's security must be protected," said Clinton when asked about her comments on the nuclear-umbrella concept.

But she also stressed that Washington was committed to a "diplomatic path" with Iran, a shift from the Bush administration which avoided engagement with Tehran until it had given up sensitive nuclear work.

Major powers suspect that Iran is seeking to build a nuclear bomb.

Iran says its nuclear work is to generate much-needed power and strongly rejects that it wants to build a weapon.