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US 'always sought Bergdahl release'

Hillary Clinton's new book has revealed that Barack Obama's government demanded the release of captured US soldier Sgt Bowe Bergdahl in every prisoner discussion it held with the Taliban.

The former US secretary of state also says in her book, Hard Choices, that she recommended President Obama end the decades-long US embargo on Cuba to force Fidel and Raul Castro into democratic change.

CBS News, which obtained a copy of the book, said Mrs Clinton has written that there would not be any agreement about freeing Taliban prisoners without Sgt Bergdahl's release.

The swap of Sgt Bergdahl in Afghanistan or five Taliban prisoners has drawn criticism in Congress from politicians who say they were not properly notified.

In excerpts obtained by The Associated Press, Mrs Clinton's book says politicians opposing a restoration of full ties with Cuba are bent on maintaining a "deep freeze" that is not sustainable or reasonable. She says she believed that "people-to-people engagement was the best way to encourage reform in Cuba".

Mr Obama has not signalled a clear intention to end the embargo and problems in doing so arose with the arrest of American Alan Gross, a US government contractor who has been detained in Cuba on espionage charges since December 2009. Mrs Clinton does not mention the Gross case in the excerpt obtained by AP.

On other topics, reported by CBS on its website, Mrs Clinton's book says:

:: There will never be "perfect clarity" on what happened regarding the terrorist attack on the US mission at Benghazi, Libya. In a swipe at those who accuse the administration of cover-up and deceit about the attack, she says lack of clarity should not be confused with lack of effort to discover and share the truth.

:: Syria evolved over time into a "wicked problem" with particularly complex challenges. She says she disagreed with Mr Obama's decision not to arm the rebels there but felt that her views had been given a fair hearing.

:: She was wrong to have voted for the Iraq resolution in 2002 as a senator from New York and that with every death that touched a New York family her "mistake" became more painful for her.

:: Actions by Russian president Vladimir Putin have proved him to be "thin-skinned and autocratic, resenting criticism and eventually cracking down on dissent and debate".

:: Mr Obama remained calm as his top advisers monitored the May 2011 raid in Pakistan by Navy SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden. In a detailed description of the operation, she says "rarely have I been prouder" to serve by Mr Obama's side.

:: A silver lining from losing the race for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008 was no longer caring what critics said about her.

:: She called on her skills as secretary of state for the "elaborate diplomacy" needed to help with daughter Chelsea's wedding plans.

:: She refused to criticise Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate in 2008, "just for being a woman appealing for support from other women".

:: When she met Russia's top diplomat Sergey Lavrov in 2009, Mrs Clinton offered him a red button labelled "reset" to symbolise how US relations with Russia had thawed. The button contained a word in Russian meant to be a translation of "reset", but Mr Lavrov said it was wrong. She writes that it was "not the finest hour for American linguistic skills".


From Belfast Telegraph