Belfast Telegraph

Kerry warns Congress over shutdown

US secretary of state John Kerry has urged Congress to end the partial government shutdown and think "long and hard" about the message the US sends the world when "we can't get our own act together".

Mr Kerry is in Bali for an economic summit of Asian leaders. President Barack Obama had planned to attend but cancelled his travel plans to remain in Washington and deal with the shutdown, now into its fifth day. Mr Kerry is now heading the US delegation in the talks.

Mr Kerry said that America's "friends and foes" around the world should not mistake the government shutdown as anything other than a "moment of politics".

"When we get this moment of political silliness behind us we will get back on a track the world will respect and want to be part of," he said at a news conference.

He called on recalcitrant lawmakers to "end it now, end it today".

Mr Kerry vowed that the United States would continue to fulfil its responsibilities during the partial shutdown that has crippled large parts of the federal government and locked thousands of government employees out of their offices.

"To all of our friends and foes around the world: Do not mistake this momentary episode in American politics for anything less than a moment of politics or anything more than a moment of politics," Mr Kerry said.

But he did note that security assistance to critical allies like Israel may be affected and that the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which oversees sanctions on rogue countries like Iran, had been forced to temporarily lay off nearly all of its staff.

He stressed that he believed the shutdown would not be long term and rejected the notion that the shutdown and Mr Obama's cancellation of his summit trip was a sign of "weakness."

"I don't believe that anyone believes that this is a moment of weakness," Mr Kerry said. "There isn't one leader here who wouldn't make the same decision if they had to deal with a domestic challenge."