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Hillary Clinton calls Obama to clarify Syria remarks

Former U.S. Secretary of State and former first lady Hillary Clinton speaks during a Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) conference in New York
Former U.S. Secretary of State and former first lady Hillary Clinton speaks during a Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) conference in New York

By Gabriel Debenedetti

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hillary Clinton, a likely Democratic contender for the White House in 2016, called President Barack Obama on Tuesday to clarify that controversial remarks she made in an interview were not intended to attack him, her spokesman said.

In an interview published by The Atlantic magazine on Sunday, former Secretary of State Clinton identified the U.S. choice not to intervene early in Syria's civil war as a "failure."

"Earlier today, the secretary called President Obama to make sure he knows that nothing she said was an attempt to attack him, his policies, or his leadership," Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said in a statement.

"While they've had honest differences on some issues, including aspects of the wicked challenge Syria presents, she has explained those differences in her book and at many points since then."

Clinton, also a former first lady and senator from New York, served as Obama's secretary of state from 2009 to 2013. Since then she has been touring the country giving a series of lucrative speeches and promoting her memoir, "Hard Choices."

She will be on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, to sign copies of her book on Wednesday. Obama is vacationing there, and the two are expected to see each other Wednesday night.

"Like any two friends who have to deal with the public eye, she looks forward to hugging it out when they see each other tomorrow night," Merrill said.

The call was first reported by Politico.

Clinton has not said whether she will run for president, but she is regarded as the favorite to win the Democratic nomination. Therefore each of her public statements has been scrutinized as a possible reflection of her potential campaign platform.

While these comments were Clinton's clearest effort at distancing herself from the White House, she has been subtly creating space between her own record and Obama's for months. The June release of "Hard Choices" also provided her with a chance to note her differences with the president.

In the book she specifically identified Obama's decision not to arm moderate Syrian rebels as a point of contention while she was at the State Department.

(Reporting by Gabriel Debenedetti; Editing by Jim Loney, Bernard Orr)

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