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Hillary Clinton defends State Department record amid criticism

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participates in A No Ceilings Conversation at Lower Eastside Girls Club in New York April 17,
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participates in A No Ceilings Conversation at Lower Eastside Girls Club in New York April 17,

By Gabriel Debenedetti

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hillary Clinton, a likely U.S. presidential candidate in 2016, on Wednesday defended her time as secretary of state as Republican criticism of her time in government mounts.

Clinton told a forum of the American Jewish Committee advocacy group that she played a key role in securing U.N. sanctions on Iran in 2010 to try to halt its nuclear ambitions.

"I worked for months to round up the votes," she said in the first of three speeches she is giving in Washington this week.

Scrutiny of her time as America's top diplomat has grown after Republicans in the House of Representatives announced a select committee to look into the 2012 assault in Benghazi, Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador and three others.

And Clinton has been attacked because the State Department on her watch did not designate Nigeria's Boko Haram group - which has kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls - as terrorists.

Clinton, who is generally considered the Democratic frontrunner if she chooses to run for the presidency, did not mention Benghazi or Boko Haram in her speech.

She focused on the provisional deal reached with Iran last year to limit its nuclear program. "No deal is better than a bad deal," she said, detailing her role in imposing sanctions on Iran and looking ahead to further negotiations.

Clinton also stressed to the American Jewish Committee audience her commitment to Israel, just weeks after the breakdown of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

She addressed women's issues at another speech on Wednesday, at the World Bank.

"I am increasingly impatient with leaders who willfully ignore the injustice that accompanies the subjugation of women and the upsides of change for them and their societies," Clinton said.

Her husband, former president Bill Clinton, jumped to her defense after top Republican strategist Karl Rove suggested last week that Hillary Clinton suffered a brain injury.

"There is nothing to it," the former president told a conference in Washington. "She is strong. She is doing great."

(Reporting by Gabriel Debenedetti; Editing by Grant McCool)

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