March 8, 2015 / 12:54 AM / 3 years ago

Bill Clinton defends his charity's foreign government donors

MIAMI (Reuters) - Former U.S. president Bill Clinton on Saturday defended donations his family’s charity receives from foreign governments after renewed criticism that they would create conflicts of interest should his wife, Hillary Clinton, run for president.

Clinton said it was possible to work with foreign governments even if one disagrees with some things they do, and that it was acceptable for them to donate to the Clinton Foundation if the donations are publicly disclosed.

“I think it’s a good thing,” he said onstage at a youth conference organized by the foundation at the University of Miami during an interview with Larry Wilmore, a television talk-show host.

“The UAE gave us money. Do we agree with everything they do? No. But they help us fight ISIS,” he added, using an acronym for the Islamist militant group Islamic State.

The United Arab Emirates donated between $1 million and $5 million to the foundation in 2014, according to a list of donors published on the foundation’s website.

It was one of several new foreign governments, including Canada and Saudi Arabia, that have begun giving to the foundation since Hillary Clinton, who is on the cusp of announcing a run for the presidency as a Democrat in 2016, stepped down as U.S. secretary of state two years ago.

Before she took office in 2009, the Clintons and the Department of State agreed that foreign governments that already supported the foundation, such as Oman, Australia and Qatar, could not increase their contributions, and that no new foreign governments could begin contributing. Exceptions to this would have to be approved by State Department ethicists and lawyers, who would check for possible conflicts of interest.

The Clintons also agreed to annually disclose the names of all new donors to the foundation, which does charitable and development work in dozens of countries.

Hillary Clinton’s political opponents say the donations would create at least an appearance of owed favors that could cloud U.S. government foreign policy.

“My theory is: disclose everything and let people make their judgments,” Bill Clinton said in the onstage interview.

Hillary Clinton spoke onstage about women’s rights before her husband arrived.

She has faced a week of intense criticism from political opponents, transparency advocacy groups and some journalists for exclusively using a private email service during her time as secretary of state. She addressed neither that nor the criticism about donors in her remarks.

Writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by James Dalgleish

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