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Hillary Clinton calls GOP letter to Iran ‘out of step’ with American traditions

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a press conference at the United Nations in New York March 10, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday called a letter 47 GOP senators sent to Iran "out of step with the best traditions of American leadership."

The letter added fuel to an already heated battle between the White House and Republicans over  negotiations to curtail Iran's nuclear program. Clinton addressed it at a news conference in New York, where  she sought to defuse the controversy over her use of private e-mails during her time in the Obama administration.

"And one has to ask, what was the purpose of this letter?" she said. "There appear to be two logical answers. Either these senators were trying to be helpful to the Iranians or harmful to the commander- in-chief in the midst of high-stakes international diplomacy. Either answer does discredit to the letters' signatories."

Clinton said the administration's goal in pursing the negotiations "is a diplomatic solution that would close off Iran's pathways to a nuclear bomb and give us unprecedented access and insight into Iran's nuclear program."

"Now, reasonable people can disagree about what exactly it will take to accomplish this objective, and we all must judge any final agreement on its merits," she said.

The unusual letter, written by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), suggests that any deal between Obama and the Iranian leadership would amount to only an “executive agreement” that could be undone by Congress or a future president.

In response to the letter, the White House accused Republicans of conspiring with Iranian hard-liners, who oppose the delicate negotiations, and suggested that their goal was to push the United States into a military conflict. Vice President Biden blasted the letter as “beneath the dignity of an institution I revere.”

The Republican signatories dismissed Obama’s assertion that they are cozying up to Iranian hard-liners, and said the administration’s rush to secure a deal with Iran had led it to dismiss Congress’s concerns.

[Republican letter to Iran intensifies dispute with White House]