GENEVA — The Obama administration bluntly warned the world against gay and lesbian discrimination Tuesday, declaring the U.S. will use foreign assistance as well as diplomacy to back its insistence that gay rights are fully equal to other basic human rights.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton compared the struggle for gay equality to difficult passages toward women’s rights and racial equality, and she said a country’s cultural or religious traditions are no excuse for bias.

“Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights,” she said.

Clinton’s audience included diplomats from Arab, African and other nations where homosexuality is criminalized or where brutality and discrimination against gay people is tolerated or encouraged.

She said nothing about  penalties the U.S. might apply to nations it judges poor protectors of gay rights, but she spoke shortly after President Obama directed the State Department  to make sure U.S. diplomacy and foreign aid promote gay rights.