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Rice Interview With David Frost on BBC's

Interview With David Frost on BBC's "Breakfast With David Frost"

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
London, England
February 4, 2005


QUESTION: Madam Secretary, first of all, congratulations.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you, very much.

QUESTION: And, going on from there, we were looking at a website of your supporters here and, lo and behold, on that it says "Condi for 2008".

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, my goodness.

QUESTION: But that's a bit premature .

SECRETARY RICE: I think no one should count on such things. [Laughter]

QUESTION: Particularly as you have only just started.

SECRETARY RICE: That's right, that's right.

QUESTION: And, the trip here, the Europe part of the trip, is really, you want to set up more of a dialogue than a monologue, and some bridge building.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's very important to come to Europe, our key allies and global partnership. We have a lot of work to do. We have such wonderful common values that unite us. We have done so much hard work together in the past. We have faced down dictatorships before and spread freedom throughout the whole of Europe.

And now we have an opportunity to do remarkable things in the Middle East, remarkable things to eliminate poverty and disease, we have an opportunity to work together, to deal with the threats of weapons of mass destruction, proliferation.

And so I have really come here to say: Let's have a dialogue about how we can approach the very large agenda before us, so that, in the long run, history judges us well for having used this wonderful alliance to promote freedom and peace.

QUESTION: And the practical things at the moment would be, for instance, that you have got to discuss, presumably, arms to China breaking the embargo of arms to China where there is an honest disagreement on that, isn't there, at the moment?

SECRETARY RICE: There is, and friends will sometimes disagree, and we have to be able to do that and to try to work our way through it. We have concerns about the lifting of the embargo because we have deep concerns about the military balance in East Asia. We are concerned that there could be a shift that might affect the American military balance.

We are also, of course, concerned because, since the arms embargo was levied at the time of Tiananmen, we would not want to send wrong signals to the Chinese about human rights concerns.

But we are still in discussion with our European allies. They are open to our concerns. I have found that the discussions are open and fruitful and we should continue those discussions.

QUESTION: And, in terms of Iran, for instance -- there is a difference of approach there -- but do you find what the Europeans have done in terms of the agreements that the three of them have made with Iran. Is that helpful to what you want to do, because you've really got a total ostracism with Iran at the moment? Or is it unhelpful what they are doing?

SECRETARY RICE: Well any effort to get Iran to live up to its international obligations that can succeed, we will support because, of course, Iran needs to live up to its international obligations. It cannot try and get nuclear weapons under cover of civilian nuclear programs. We believe that the Iranians are being offered an opportunity they ought to take it.

QUESTION: But would you welcome a regime change in Iran?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, all of us would have to agree that the behavior of this Iranian regime in supporting terrorism, in sowing instability in the Middle East, in the way it treats its own people is not a regime to be admired. And certainly the Iranian people deserve the same opportunities for freedom and liberty that are beginning to take hold in other parts of the Middle East.

QUESTION: And Vice President Cheney, noting this threat that Iran poses, went on to say: "Given that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first and let the world worry about the consequences afterwards." If, when you get to see Mr. Sharon, he says: "Would you really like us to do what Dick Cheney suggested? Would you really like us to go ahead?" Would you say "Yes" or "No".

SECRETARY RICE: Well, obviously what the Vice President is pointing to is the destabilizing effect should Iran get a nuclear weapon. And we all have to make certain that we are working as hard as we can to get the Iranians to live up to their international obligations, to get verification, to assign additional protocol to allow the inspectors from the IAEA to come in on snap inspections so that we don't get to the place that Iran can destabilize the region with a nuclear program.

QUESTION: So would you say "Yes" or "No", or "Maybe"?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I am not going to speculate, but I will say that obviously anything that would lead to conflict in this region would be a terrible, terrible thing. And the Iranians need to live up to their international obligations so we don't face any such point.

QUESTION: And how soon, do you think, I mean the President said that there could be a Palestinian state during the Bush presidency. Could there be a democratic Iran in that time or is that too ambitious?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we never know. I am an old Soviet specialist, and I don't think anybody would have thought that the Soviet Union was going to collapse peacefully as quickly as it did. But obviously the goal here is, first and foremost, to deal with Iran's destabilizing behavior in the international system. It really is a chief funder of terrorism. I am here to talk to about an emerging peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians. One of the most important barriers to getting to that peace is the activity of Palestinian rejectionist groups and of groups like Hezbollah. Iran is the key supporter of these rejectionist groups. So Iran is the destabilizing force in the international system and we need unity of purpose, unity of message to Iran to stop those activities.

QUESTION: Because, unlike Iraq, there is not the same, perhaps not at all, military option in Iran. It's so big, there are 70 million people, it's much more difficult militarily than Iraq isn't it?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the President has made very clear that we believe dealing with the Iranian situation diplomatically is the key, and that's why I am here for discussions. We do need a strong message to Iran. We need a united front on the Iranian nuclear program. We need, as great democracies, to tell the Iranian people that they deserve a better future than they currently, than the present that they currently have.

But we believe that this is a time for diplomacy; this is a time to muster our considerable influence we, the alliance our considerable influence, our considerable soft power, if you will, to bring great changes in the world.

QUESTION: And the Middle East, obviously, is a crucial part of your trip. And I suppose that when, you are talking to the Palestinians, presumably you feel that Mr. Abbas has really shown his good faith by what he has done so far in terms of the terrorists.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, so far the election of Mahmoud Abbas has been a real plus for the process and he's demonstrated that he wants to make changes. He's a person who says that the armed intifada has failed, that it is time now to move to negotiations. He has a lot of work to do, of course, to really stop terrorism and to also make sure that terrorist groups cannot just turn terrorism on and off as they wish. But we are impressed with what he has done. We hope he will continue to do more and, as the President said in his State of the Union address, we stand by ready to help and indeed will engage to try and help the parties.

QUESTION: And in terms of training, other countries can help with training the Palestinians in certain ways, can't they, in terms of security?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, the Palestinians will need help in bringing together and unifying their security forces. They will need help in building the institutions that will become the foundation of the state. They certainly need help in economic reconstruction, job creation, doing something about the terrible plight of the Palestinian people that really the intifada has worsened. And Israel has obligations to try and create conditions for this new Palestinian state.

QUESTION: The two things people talk about, they say you will be discussing with them particularly, obviously, is the idea of a real freeze on settlements. And the second thing is the route of the wall which, probably, will stay because it seems to have saved lives, but in some places it has been very insensitively done and people twenty meters from their neighbors have to go five miles up the road and come down again. And it should get back to the green route they were saying.

SECRETARY RICE: Well we certainly hope that there will come a day when one doesn't need such walls. And the Israelis, in the meantime, we have been very clear that they should not do anything that pre-judges final status borderlines, and that the route of this fence should do everything that it can to ease the plight of the Palestinians, not contribute to it.

QUESTION: So all you have heard and are about to see convinces you that the President might be right, that this could be done, a Palestinian state in four years?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I won't put a timeline on it, but I do think that we can get to two states living side by side; we have to. The peace of the Middle East demands that there one day be a Palestine and an Israel, living side by side in peace.

QUESTION: And talking of living side by side in peace: Iraq. Obviously there have been great mistakes over the last two years and things haven't gone as you would have wished, or expected. But do you think that this is a turning point we had with the elections in Iraq? Do you think that was, perhaps, the turning of the tide?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I would think about it a little differently. I think that the Iraqi people were liberated by the coalition. Saddam Hussein was overthrown, but the Iraqi people had to take control of their own future. And on Sunday they really signalled that they are ready to do that. They signalled that they understand that freedom does not come free. They demonstrated tremendous bravery and courage, despite the threats against them to go and vote. Their security forces performed well in supporting that vote.

We need now to help the Iraqis build their capacity for governing, build their capacity for maintaining their own security and those of us who were lucky enough to be on the right side of freedom's divide, owe it to people like the Iraqis, who are showing that they really do have aspirations for freedom, to support them in any and every way that we can.

QUESTION: In terms of, the difficult thing is the training of the Iraqi army, partially because we dispersed the other one, Iraqi security forces and so on and so forth. They say here in Whitehall there are five to ten thousand who are really well trained and effective in doing the job, but they need numbers more like you have there, 150,000 or whatever. Do you think you can persuade other European countries to do some onsite training of these people and so on? Can you get Germany and France to do something?

SECRETARY RICE: Well the Germans are training police in Dubai, but you are right, it's not onsite, but they are training. And NATO has a training mission to help provide leadership for the new Iraqi security forces. We all need to do more; we need to accelerate the training of those forces.

The Iraqis do have large numbers of forces trained -- we have trained large numbers -- the problem is making certain that they have appropriate leadership. We never know precisely how they are going to perform until they have to perform. But I have to say that Sunday's performance was heartening. General Casey has said that there were no cases of which he knows in which coalition forces had to step in for them.

QUESTION: Whitehall talk about a relatively small withdrawal of British troops this year and a major one next year. Does that sound like common sense in accord with what's happening?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we are reluctant to talk about time lines, but I do think we are coming through different phases, and we are in a different phase now in which you will have an Iraqi government that is elected, that is working towards a constitution. And obviously the more quickly we can get Iraqi forces trained and ready, we can step back in our own roles and eventually bring our forces home, and that will be a very, very happy day. And so the training of these security forces is extremely important.

QUESTION: And how urgent is it to make sure that the Sunnis do take part in the political process despite having, in general, not participated in the election? And that, among other things, they get some decent jobs in the government. How urgent is that?

SECRETARY RICE: Well both of those are very urgent demands and the Iraqis seem to understand the importance of bringing those into the process who, for a variety of reasons, were unable to participate. And I would just say, an awful lot of Sunnis wanted to participate, but of course the intimidation and lawlessness was most pronounced in those Sunni areas, yet many Sunnis did vote and that's a very good sign. But I have read the comments by innumerable Iraqi leaders now who say that they know that they need to broaden the base of this government, which will write the constitution, has to represent all Iraqis. We should support them in that effort.

QUESTION: Many people, including our own chancellor, Gordon Brown, believe that poverty is one of the things that breeds terror. Would you agree that overcoming poverty is not only the right thing to do, but also has a security plus as well?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, absolutely, overcoming poverty is the right thing to do on its merits. It does, of course, have a security component. I think terrorism is more bred by the hopelessness of this lack of freedom because if you look at many of the terrorists, these are actually middle class people who fly airplanes into buildings on a fine September day. But it doesn't matter. Poverty is something that because of our moral obligation, we need to deal with. And the President has been active in this regard; American official development assistance has increased by nearly 50% in this period of time. We have put in place a huge AIDS relief program of 15 billion dollars over five years, so this is something that has been very much a part of the President's agenda.

QUESTION: As we approach -- not quite there -- but alas, the end of our time -- with your fantastic schedule -- just a footnote about the fact that your journey from Mississippi to the Churchill Hotel [laughter] has been a phenomenal one and I wonder, as you look back over that life, what's the best advice you were ever given?

SECRETARY RICE: The best advice I was ever given growing up as a little girl in the South, was really by my parents and the teachers around us. Our teachers in segregated Alabama were fantastic, and it was always that you don't make excuses, that you simply go and do. They used to say: "Even if you find yourself in circumstances like Birmingham, it should not limit your horizons." And we believed it.

QUESTION: And that was the vital point?

SECRETARY RICE: That was the vital point.

QUESTION: Do you sometimes pinch yourself and not believe it?

SECRETARY RICE: Of course, I think anyone in this position would. But I have been very fortunate to serve at a time, and serve a President who took on the challenge of September 11th, who has bold ideas about how we address the many pathologies of international politics. But from the perspective of someone who grew up in a segregated world where difference was accentuated, I think perhaps more than anything I understand the need of peoples to come together and not allow difference to be a licence to kill.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much indeed.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much.

2005/122

Released on February 4, 2005


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