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WASHINGTON – Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday dismissed the possibility of returning U.S. troops to Iraq, even though she conceded that the spiraling conflict there could grow into a regionwide war.

Saying that Iraq is falling apart because Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki failed to reach out to the nation’s various religious and ethnic factions, Clinton said: “There’s no reason that I know of that we would sacrifice a single American life for that.”

At the same time, Clinton acknowledged that the situation in Iraq – already spurred by Sunni fighters from Syria who oppose Maliki’s Shiite Muslim regime – could spiral out of control.

“We are looking at a potential war in the Middle East that is going to cross borders,” Clinton said.

When Clinton was serving as a U.S. senator from New York, she favored the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq that started a long war that claimed the lives of nearly 4,500 American troops and led to the installation of Maliki’s government – which, she noted, refused to allow any residual presence of U.S. forces after 2012.

Clinton’s support of the Iraq War was a key issue during the 2008 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, which she lost to President Obama, who opposed the invasion.

And with another possible presidential campaign looming, Clinton recently said she “got it wrong” in voting for the Iraq War.

Clinton, who left the State Department early last year, appeared Friday at a book talk at George Washington University sponsored by the Politics & Prose bookstore. The session, moderated by the bookstore’s co-owner, former Clinton aide Lissa Muscatine, largely featured friendly questions about Clinton’s new memoir, “Hard Choices.”

At the end, the session took on the air of a campaign rally. When Muscatine asked Clinton a question about building her legacy, Clinton said she would do that through her foundation “and other ways” – prompting a huge ovation from the crowd of hundreds in a university auditorium.

Clinton then ended the hour-long event by shaking hands with the people in the front row and, like countless candidates before her, picking up a baby and holding it onstage as the cameras flashed.

email: jzremski@buffnews.com