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Clinton Says Leaks Will Not Impede US Diplomacy

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton walks in to shake hands with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in Astana on December 1, 2010 during a welcoming ceremony of the OSCE Summit.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the leak of thousands of State Department documents "will not in any way" interfere with ongoing American diplomacy. Clinton met on the sidelines of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe summit in Kazakhstan with a number of world leaders named in classified documents published by WikiLeaks.

Clinton has been the most visible member of the Obama administration in condemning the unauthorized leaks as, among other things, an "attack" on the United States' foreign policy interests, its alliances and partnerships.

But at a news event with Kazakh Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev capping a day of diplomatic meetings, many of which dealt with the WikiLeaks affair, Clinton sounded hopeful that actual damage to U.S. international relationships will be minimal.

"I have certainly raised the issue of the leaks, in order to assure our colleagues that it will not in any way interfere with American diplomacy, or our commitment to continuing important work that is ongoing," said Clinton. "I have not had any concerns expressed about whether any nation will not continue to work with, and discuss matters of importance to us both going forward."

Clinton said she came to the OSCE gathering anticipating a lot of questions about the leaks, and that one reason she attended the summit was to reassure U.S. partners that the Obama administration is committed to a "robust and comprehensive" agenda of engagement.

The leaked papers, mainly reports to Washington from U.S. diplomats in the field, reportedly contain unflattering comments on a number of world leaders, including Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who was said to prefer Gulf vacations to spending winter days in wind-swept Astana.

Clinton held a bilateral meeting with Mr. Nazerbayev, and afterward Foreign Minister Saudabayev brushed aside the controversy as something commonplace in diplomatic affairs. He spoke through an interpreter.

"I believe that what has happened is part of a normal cost or a normal price, that one has occasionally to pay while we lead our work," he said. "That is why we will be able to live through this incident as we have through others. And as the head of the ministry of foreign affairs of our country, I now declare that this will have no effect for our strategic partnership between the United States and Kazakhstan."

Clinton also had a bilateral meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was reportedly described as vain and ineffective, among other things, in the U.S. diplomatic cables.

In remarks as she begin the session with the Italian leader, Clinton said the United States has "no better friend" and that no one has supported U.S. policies as consistently as Mr. Berlusconi for more than a decade.

A senior State Department official later said Mr. Berlusconi raised the leaks with Clinton and said they have created a problem for his government.

But he said the general response of Berlusconi and others depicted in unflattering terms, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, was one of understanding, and even sympathy, for the Obama administration's current situation.