U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says trans-national Islamic extremist networks pose greater threats to the United States than the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.
Clinton says the Obama administration is concerned about connections between non-state groups loyal to al-Qaida with bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and North Africa. She was speaking in an interview with U.S. television network CNN, broadcast Sunday.
Clinton says a nuclear-armed Iran or North Korea also pose both a "real or potential threat" to the United States. Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons and says its atomic program is peaceful.
North Korea has tested nuclear weapons and has blocked six-party talks on dismantling that program in return for international aid and other incentives.
Clinton says she does not believe Iran possesses a nuclear weapon, but says Tehran's behavior is evidence of its intentions. She noted what she called Iran's "failure" to disclose its uranium enrichment facility near the city of Qom until after it began building the site.
Iran revealed the existence of the previously-secret facility last September, triggering outrage from Western nations who suspect Iran is enriching uranium to develop nuclear weapons.
Clinton also criticized Tehran for refusing to accept what she called a "very reasonable" U.N.-brokered proposal for sending Iran's low-enriched uranium to Russia and France for processing into fuel. Western nations fear unsupervised enrichment could feed a nuclear weapon program.
The U.S. secretary of state defended the Obama administration's policy of pursuing engagement with Tehran and Pyongyang to try to resolve disputes about their nuclear programs.
She says North Korea's lack of response to U.S. engagement efforts persuaded Russia and China to sign on to what she called "very strong" sanctions against Pyongyang that are being enforced worldwide.
Clinton also says the rest of the world is beginning to see Iran's nuclear program the way Washington sees it, because of what she called "very slow and steady U.S. diplomacy."