Smooth sailing but few details in Clinton session

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(AP) - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton gave a glimpse of the firm hand in the velvet glove she may employ as a diplomat, charming her way through the mostly gentle questioning of fellow senators at her confirmation hearing but testily deflecting ethics concerns about her husband's international charity work.

Completing a remarkable circle that began with her front-runningWhite House bid upended by a rival now her boss, Clinton sat alonefor a job interview before her former Senate colleagues on Tuesday.Her confirmation as secretary of state is not in doubt, and shecould be on the job as soon as Barack Obama's first full day inoffice.

Clinton gave a smooth performance, offering ready, well-preparedanswers to questions on crises and trouble spots including theIsraeli-Palestinian conflict, Iran, Cuba and Afghanistan. Sheoffered few details about how she and President-elect Barack Obamawould handle those problems, except to say that in many cases theywould offer a fresh approach after eight years of President GeorgeW. Bush.

But she also displayed the brisk, lawyerly persona she oftenuses to deflect controversy as she dealt with uncomfortablequestions raised Tuesday about the international fundraising of herhusband, former President Bill Clinton. Several Republican senatorsraised questions about the scope of an agreement carved out betweenBill Clinton's lawyer and Obama transition officials to deal withquestions of possible ethics conflicts, and the current New Yorksenator was quick to dismiss them.

"I am very proud to be the president-elect's nominee for secretary of state, and I am very proud of what my husband and the Clinton Foundation and the associated efforts he's undertaken have accomplished, as well," Clinton said.

Citing policy themes familiar from Obama's presidential campaign- and in many cases her own - Clinton said the incoming Democraticadministration wants to elevate the role of diplomacy.

"The president-elect and I believe that foreign policy must be based on a marriage of principles and pragmatism, not rigid ideology, on facts and evidence, not emotion or prejudice," Clinton said, her daughter, Chelsea, seated behind her in the audience.

That was fine by everyone on the committee, apparently, as was nearly everything else Clinton said about subjects as complex as Counterinsurgency strategy in Pakistan and as arcane as the international Law of the Sea.

Clinton's maintained her cool demeanor as she assured Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind. that her husband's globe-trotting charity work would not pose even an appearance of conflict with her own world travels as Obama's chief diplomat. But her answers took on a prickly tone as Sen. David Vitter, R-La., bored in with more reservations.

Despite efforts by Lugar to win more concessions from Bill Clinton on guarding against ethics conflicts, his wife insisted disclosure rules already in place were carefully crafted and adequate to avoid any conflict.

"It is not unique, however, for spouses of government officialsto work, and there are very well established rules for what isexpected when that occurs," she said.

Lugar was not convinced, though he assured Clinton of his vote.

"I plead for you, really, to give even more consideration," Lugar gingerly suggested.

Lugar said he worries that foreign governments or others might try to curry favor with the secretary of state by donating money to the good works group run by her husband. Lugar said the possibility for apparent conflicts of interest are obvious, even if both Clintons have only the best of intentions.

Before the hearing, Lugar made four suggestions to Clinton's staff on how to improve transparency in her husband's charitable fundraising, said the senator's spokesman, Andy Fisher.

The Obama administration would accept only one of the proposals - that the foundation provide a clear picture of its annual donations, Fisher said.

The Foreign Relations Committee plans to vote on Clinton's confirmation on Thursday.

Chappaqua residents react to Sen. Clinton's confirmation hearing

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