by RAY FLEMING
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is appearing live on the Meet the Press network TV show today. She will obviously use the occasion to establish that her recent absence from public events as the result of a broken elbow has not eroded her influence in the Obama administration. Last week she carried out a busy schedule in several South East Asian capitals and made international headlines with her suggestion that if Iran does not rein in its nuclear development it may be necessary for America to create a “defence umbrella” over other Middle East countries; aides travelling with her hurried to emphasize that the idea was only speculation and not policy. While Mrs Clinton was in Asia, Vice President Joe Biden was in Georgia and Ukraine reassuring those anxious countries that America would not accept Russia's concept of “zones of influence” that would give Moscow some kind of veto on their actions - for instance on Georgia's hopes for Nato membership, which Mr Biden endorsed in general terms. Next week, while Mrs Clinton meets Chinese ministers in Washington, Defense Secretary Robert Gates will be in Israel for talks on the Middle East peace process and, no doubt, on Iran also. Barack Obama's insistence on getting on with all the big foreign policy issues at the same time means that Hillary Clinton cannot possibly be everywhere she should be as Secretary of State - and it also means that a highly developed collegial atmosphere is essential in and around the White House.

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