WASHINGTON (CNN) - Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama offered qualified support for the Bush administration’s new sanctions against Iran Thursday, even as their differences over the issue loomed larger on the campaign trail this week.
Clinton offered support for the administration’s tougher sanctions, saying in a statement “We must use all the tools at our disposal to address the serious challenge posed by Iran, including diplomacy, economic pressure, and sanctions."
“I believe that a policy of diplomacy backed by economic pressure is the best way to check Iran’s efforts to acquire a nuclear weapons program and stop its support of terrorism, and the best way to avert a war," she added. "We must work to check Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its support of terrorism, and the sanctions announced today strengthen America's diplomatic hand in that regard.” (Related: Dodd, Edwards blast Iran sanctions, criticize Clinton)
But she said a stronger effort to work out a diplomatic solution was needed along with the sanctions.
“The Bush Administration should use this opportunity to finally engage in robust diplomacy to achieve our objective of ending Iran's nuclear weapons program, while also averting military action. That is the policy I support," she said.
Meanwhile Obama in a statement backed sanctions, but repeated his caution against linking Iran with the situation in Iraq.
“It is important to have tough sanctions on Iran, particularly on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard which supports terrorism. But these sanctions must not be linked to any attempt to keep our troops in Iraq, or to take military action against Iran," he said.
The Illinois senator also made what seemed a veiled reference to Clinton’s vote in favor of an amendment declaring the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, saying amendment “made the case for President Bush that we need to use our military presence in Iraq to counter Iran - a case that has nothing to do with sanctioning the Revolutionary Guard."
Obama’s presidential campaign sent a mailing to Iowa voters this week saying Clinton’s vote “raises the risk of war with Iran.” The Illinois senator was not present for the vote, but has said he is against the idea.
But Clinton in her statement defended her position, saying, “I took to the Senate floor last February and warned the president not to take military action against Iran without going to Congress first and that's why I’ve co-sponsored Sen. (Jim) Webb’s legislation to make that the law of the land."
– CNN Political Desk Managing Editor Steve Brusk