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Kerry calls spending cuts "greatest challenge" to foreign policy


13:52, February 21, 2013

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday called the looming spending cuts as the " greatest challenge" to America's foreign policy.

"Now, I'm particularly aware that in many ways, the greatest challenge to America's foreign policy today is in the hands not of diplomats, but of policymakers in Congress," Kerry said at the University of Virginia in his first major foreign policy speech since he took oath early this month.

He urged the U.S. politicians to avoid a "looming budget sequester," citing "we can't be strong in the world unless we are strong at home."

Kerry's speech, widely seen as targeting the domestic audience, came as roughly 85 billion U.S. dollars of automatic spending cuts, also known as sequester, are set to hit various U.S. governmental departments starting on March 1. The sequester was agreed by Democrats and Republicans in January to resolve the so-called " fiscal cliff."

The State Department said the cuts would affect as much as 2.6 billion dollars in aid and various other diplomatic programs. The budget for U.S. diplomatic operations accounts for about one percent of the total federal budget.

Kerry said that his ability working as America's chief diplomat on the global stage depends on whether Washington can put "its own fiscal house in order."

"And that has to be now," he stressed.

"Think about it. It's hard to tell the leadership of any number of countries that they have to resolve their economic issues if we don't resolve our own," Kerry noted.

He called for a "responsible agreement" to prevent the " senseless cuts," warning that the opportunity cannot be missed " because of politics."

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