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Condoleezza Rice IV With the Los Angeles Times

Interview With the Los Angeles Times

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
March 24, 2005

(10:30 a.m. EST)

QUESTION: Let me go ahead and plunge right into the news, if I can. Tell us what came out of the meetings yesterday with the Israelis. Where does the settlements issue stand?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, David Welch and Elliott Abrams were there and had an opportunity to go into some depth about how the situation is unfolding.

Let me go back to a kind of broader issue, which is that this is going to be an extremely important four- or five-month period, really, I think, up and through the fall, in which we have the Palestinian elections, the parliamentary elections are expected to take place later in the spring, early summer, in which you are going to have the beginning of the Israeli disengagement plan. So we're in a period of historic circumstances where we really need to keep all of the parties focused on the work ahead of them because if, in fact, you have a successful disengagement from the Gaza; if, in fact, you have the building of Palestinian institutions that are transparent and accountable; if, in fact, you have the international community rally around the Palestinians the way they promised to do at the London meeting that was sponsored by Prime Minister Blair, then we're going to be in a fundamentally different situation in several months and I think we will be very advanced in terms of where we would be in relationship to the roadmap. It's extremely important to keep that big picture in mind when you look at the kinds of issues that you're raising about settlement activity.

Now, our position on settlement activity has not changed. We have said to the Israelis that they have obligations under the roadmap, they have obligations not to increase settlement activity. We expect, in particular, that they are going to be careful about anything -- route of the fence, settlement activity, laws -- that would appear to prejudge a final status agreement, and it's concerning that this is where it is and around Jerusalem. But we've noted our concern to the Israelis -- and David Welch and Elliott did. We will continue to note that this is at odds with the -- of American policy. So full stop we will continue to do that and we have noted our concerns about it.

And we do also have to stay focused on the bigger picture here of what we're trying to get the parties to do over the next several months because if they do that we're going to be in a fundamentally different situation.

QUESTION: You noted your concerns. Did you get what you consider a satisfactory response?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that we got a response. I think anything that raises the prospect that you're going to have an expansion of settlements in this way, particularly in a sensitive area, is not really a satisfactory response. But we're going to continue to talk to the Israelis about it and we've got some time before any of this would actually take place.

QUESTION: King Abdullah gave a rather pessimistic assessment of the situation in this morning's New York Times. There is also some concern that there's an awful lot resting on Abu Mazen's shoulders, as opposed to institutions. Is that a worry for you and how do you deal with that?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, in this sense there is certainly a lot resting on Abu Mazen's shoulders and it's resting there for a good reason, that the Palestinian people went to the polls and they elected him. And they elected him on a platform that was clearly one that rejected the armed intifadah and talked about the need to have a road to peace. So there's no doubt that there's a lot resting on his shoulders.

That's why we are very focused on helping the Palestinians build institutions because your point is right: It shouldn't rest on one person's shoulder. But obviously early in the development of democratic institutions it's very often the case that an awful lot rests on one or two or a few individuals.

But we're very focused on the institution building process for exactly that reason, so they have a -- we're doing work with the finance minister to make sure that they continue to press the transparency measures there so that foreign assistance can be well spent. There are plans that are being discussed for how you would rehabilitate and reconstruct Gaza once the Israelis leave. The Europeans are very involved, the European Union is very involved, on some of the political -- the formation of political -- helping the Palestinians with the formation of political structures. And we have through General Ward a process to help the Palestinians build security forces that are accountable.

So it's not that people are unaware of the need for institutions, but they are just barely in the post-Arafat phase here and so you just have to go through a process now of building those institutions as rapidly as possible.

I might note that there's also a lot resting on the Israelis at this point. The historic decision to withdraw from the Gaza and from the four settlements in the West Bank is a decision that has not been uniformly popular in Israel. It raises a number of issues for the Israeli population. And the Israelis also have to get through this fundamentally new period.

So yes, it's all very fragile. There is no doubt about it. But it is fragile on the right side of the ledger; in other words, I think we have a better chance now than we've had in a very long time. That's why the United States is intensively involved to try to help the parties, too, but that it's fragile I would not disagree.

QUESTION: Is that connection between the settlements and the Gaza pullout, do you see that as maybe giving Sharon a bit of room domestically?

SECRETARY RICE: Our view is that our policy remains the same on the settlements. The President made very clear in his April 14th meetings with Prime Minister Sharon that while we recognize that there have been changed circumstances on the ground in the time since '67, that this is all to be negotiated between the parties. And that's very clear in what the President said.

If I could just make one other point about the period that we're in. It is, indeed, a fragile period, but even in this fragile period the turnover of Jericho and Tulkarem has taken place. The Palestinians have not done all that we would hope to see in terms of the terrorist organizations but they've actually deployed the security forces, they've arrested some people. So we're making some progress -- or they're making some progress. And it might just be interesting to note that they're making progress bilaterally between themselves, which is really the best process.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, on Iran, the Europeans are arguing essentially that time is now on our side, that with the agreement for a freeze and with the IAEA monitoring the freeze, it's the Iranians who are in a hurry to get a deal and that they are effectively contained. Do you accept that, and does that mean that we do have time to negotiate onward?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's always better to resolve these things as soon as you can, not later, because Iran is a very closed society, at least from the perspective -- this perspective, that it's not Iraq. It has people going back and forth. It was a dissident group that exposed Natanz and so you have some sources of information but they are by no means perfect and so you want as soon as possible to get a handle on the Iranian program.

I do think that we made a lot of progress over the last several weeks in that we found that when I was in Europe the first time and the President was in Europe that somehow the conversation had shifted to what the United States was going to do rather than to what the Iranians were going to do, and this is now clearly back on the ground that the Iranians have certain obligations to meet, that there is a unified view of what those obligations are, that there is a unified approach to those, to getting the Iranians to live up to those obligations.

And so we're certainly in better shape than we were several weeks ago, but I would hope that the Iranians would want to demonstrate sooner rather than later that they really do now intend to live up to those obligations because a lot is riding on it.

QUESTION: To go back to Sonni's question though, are you comfortable that the current freeze amounts to containment of the Iranian program?

SECRETARY RICE: I do not think you can ever be certain of any such thing. It is better than nothing to have a freeze, obviously. But the real goal here has to be that the Iranians make a choice that they are going to engage -- that they are not going to engage in activities that heighten suspicion that they're trying to get a nuclear weapon under cover of civilian nuclear program. And there are some very clear steps they could take to do that and they have to be steps that are not easily reversible.

And so this is where we are and, as I said, it's a better place than we were a little while ago. But that's because the world is unified. I even thought that -- and we said this -- that the Russian agreement with the Iranians, while we don't understand why the Iranians would want civilian nuclear power at all given their tremendous energy reserves, but at least the Russian agreement also speaks to the question of proliferation risk in terms of fuel take-backs and provision of fuel rather than allowing the Iranians to reprocess.

QUESTION: Now do you want to ask your NPT question?


QUESTION: It's a yes or no question.


QUESTION: The approach towards Iran is they are not allowed to enrich. Is this a new interpretation by the Administration of the NPT that all signatory states to the treaty should no longer be allowed to enrich or are you setting aside a category of states that this would apply?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the President at the NDU -- and I have to find the date -- but it's probably a year ago or so.

MR. WILKINSON: Is it the 11th of -- was it February?

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, so it's probably a little over a year ago. But we can find the date.

The President said that he thought to reduce proliferation risk it would be best if there were essentially no more enrichment and reprocessing, that it's just -- there is such great proliferation risk associated with it that it would be better. The G-8 agreed to then a one-year moratorium, to promote a one-year moratorium.

Now we understand that there are -- that this is complicated because there are states that point to in the NPT the access that is granted to states in the -- who are in good standing in the NPT to civilian nuclear power development. I think it's a question of how one interprets civilian nuclear power development. There are lots of ways to develop civilian nuclear power without reprocessing and enriching, and given the proliferation risk, it would probably be a better thing if this remained where it is now with -- and you could have provision of fuel by, you know, the Nuclear Suppliers Group. I mean, there are any number of issues.

And one thing the President looks forward to is continuing discussions about how we close this loophole in the NPT because it is a loophole that countries have used, including, for instance, the North Koreans used it to gain access to civilian nuclear power but to continue activities that were closed and unclear and, in some cases, the North Koreans said, very clear, as to what they were doing.

So that's been the course that the President has laid out. We're still in discussions with people. I think there has been some interest in the high levels of the IAEA in this same kind of idea and everybody recognizes that there is a proliferation risk associated with reprocessing and enrichment.

QUESTION: A question about Iraq. U.S. officials in Iraq have from time to time raised questions with their Iraqi counterparts about the presence of Iranian influence. Before the election, there was talk about how much are the Iranians supporting one candidate. Since then, there has been talk, I guess, about will there be people with Iranian links in some of the security-related ministries.

What's your level of concern about that issue? A new government's about to be formed. Will there be an important Iranian influence in it?

SECRETARY RICE: Let me start by saying it is in many ways the Iraqi Government, or members of the Iraqi Government, who have most often raised the Iranian issue. And I would make a distinction. Iran is Iraq's neighbor. They have not had particularly good relations over the years, but it's a neighbor, and so we would be the first to say that we would hope there would be good, transparent relations between Iran and Iraq.

But that does mean that the kind of activities that Iranian security forces might carry on or activities that might be intended at destabilizing somehow the environment or non-transparently influencing the course of affairs, that that would not be welcome. And so there's a distinction here between relations with Iran, which are going to happen because it's a neighbor, and non-transparent relations with Iran.

The people -- a number of people sought exile in Iran, have relations with Iran, but I don't detect from most of the key leaders in Iraq any desire to exchange the yoke of Saddam Hussein for the yoke of Khamenei. I just don't detect that. The Iraqis have a very different tradition in terms of the role of clerics. You might have noticed what the Iraqi Shia have said about the role of clerics, even in this coming new government. It is quite different from the Iranian tradition.

And given that there are also cultural and other differences between them, I think that if the Iraqis are left to their own devices they will find an Iraqi way to incorporate Islam into a democratic path of development, not seek to mimic in any way what the Iranians have done. And so this is really a question about letting the Iraqis have their own path to the relationship between democracy and Islam. I think that's what you are sometimes hearing and you're hearing it as much from Iraqis as you are -- more from Iraqis than you are from anyone else.

QUESTION: A few weeks ago, you said that the U.S. was very concerned about the jailing of Ayman Nour. He's out of jail now but he's facing criminal charges on forgery. How do you feel about his situation now? And also, having had a few weeks to talk to the Egyptians about President Mubarak's initiative on multiparty elections, does that look like a real step forward toward democracy?

SECRETARY RICE: On multiparty elections, it's still an unfolding story. I do believe that the Egyptians understand that people are watching to see how this will unfold; that real reform is expected now by the international community. This takes place in a context in which there is a lot of change in the region, in which you've had elections in Iraq, in which you've had elections in the Palestinian territories, in which the Saudis are making some moves toward limited elections, although we would hope that at some point in time those would be more than limited, particularly concerning the role of women.

So it's a changed circumstance, a change in environment, and I think the Egyptians understand that people are looking to see that these are real reforms that will have an impact on how elections are actually carried out.

The President always said that these things will happen, that this process of democratization will happen, at a pace that is different in different societies. But in many ways, a sophisticated, great culture like Egypt, he has said, could lead in this regard, much as they led in the search for peace by signing the peace treaty with Israel. So we're watching, we're encouraged and we're encouraging the Egyptians to make these real reforms. But we will see. I think we know that the Egyptians know that everyone is watching this.

As to Ayman Nour, I'm glad that he's out of jail. That's a good thing. And the issue of what happens from here on out is also going to be watched very carefully in terms of rule of law and the way that this transpires.

QUESTION: On Darfur, the U.S., of course, has gotten the most credit for being the most active in doing something on Darfur. But given what's happening recently, it seems that the Sudanese are, in fact, getting away with what the U.S. has called genocide. And I wonder whether you will be continuing -- I mean, is this -- is this a case where the -- an example of the UN basically not -- -- failing -- not doing what it's supposed to do? Will you be continuing the efforts that so far have been futile to get the Chinese and the Russians to actually do something about this, or do you go outside the UN process to do something about this situation?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we have worked very hard on Darfur. We've taken a kind of three-pronged attack on -- a three-pronged approach -- let me use that word. On the one hand, we have clearly tried to deal with the humanitarian situation and to simply do something to alleviate the suffering. And we've put a lot of money into it. We've worked with the Libyans to have another supply route. It was going pretty well for a while. I think there's been some slowing in that over the last month or so. We're concerned about it and we're pressing that issue very hard with Khartoum because the first goal here has to be to try to save lives, and so we are trying on the humanitarian side.

Secondly, we are working with the AU to try, as much as we can, to strengthen their capability for monitoring because it's understood that where there is monitoring, it's actually seems to be -- there seems to be less violence. And so we'd like to at least get to the ceiling, which had been 3,400 AU monitors, but I understand while I was away that the Sudanese have said maybe 5- or 6,000. We need to get that organized and get those monitors in.

The third element has been to work through the United Nations to, first of all, try to solidify the north-south agreement so that you have a unified Sudanese Government with responsibility and a possibility to deal with this situation. We made some progress when, hopefully, there will be a resolution voted on peacekeeping later today. That would allow them 10,000 peacekeepers who are responsible -- who would be responsible for the north-south and for managing the south to get into place. And that would be a very good step forward.

Secondly, we have a sanctions resolution that we think would bring additional pressure on Khartoum. We have been, frankly, disappointed that there are those who don't seem to know -- see the need for this kind of sanctions resolution. We're working with the Chinese and the Russians and others who have been reluctant to have one, and hopefully we can get a sanctions resolution fairly soon.

The question about accountability is still there. We, obviously, care a great deal about accountability. There are differences not just with us and the Europeans about accountability but also the -- several Africans, including Obasanjo, who is the head of the AU, to say that they would rather have an African tribunal of some kind. And so there are wide variations in what people think the accountability means ought to be but there, I think, there is no variation in the fact that everybody wants to see accountability for war crimes in Sudan.

So that is the way in which we've been working. Now, ultimately, this is only going to get resolved if you have some kind of political process in which all parties in Sudan disarm themselves and become part of the political process. In order for that to happen, the Khartoum government has simply got to stop the violence for those militias that are associated with it, and there also has to be pressure on the rebels to stop the violence. And we then believe that the context for this political discussion that the AU, again, is sponsoring might improve.

But those are the steps that we're trying to take. We've obviously tried to give visibility to it. Secretary Powell went there. We will continue to try to give visibility to it because this is really just a horrible situation and the world needs to be focused on it and we need to move quickly. It's one reason we were pleased that we were actually able to break out the resolutions because it had gone on too long, circling around about our disagreements rather than on the things that we agree, which is there ought to be a peacekeeping arrangement.

QUESTION: I have what may be for me a dangerously broad question on your diplomatic style. You've taken American diplomacy, as you promised, in a sense, into a revived multilateralism, but it's not the old sort of formalistic process-based multilateralism. It seems to be a multilateralism focused more upon coalition building and coalitions of the willing. But I don't want my definition of it. I want your definition of it.

SECRETARY RICE: You know, I'm not terribly self-reflective about these things, Doyle. You've known me for a long time.

QUESTION: But you're good at analyzing strategies.


I think the first thing is that we need always to proceed from what it is we're trying to do and then let process follow what it is that you're trying to do. There is no doubt that the effort to capitalize or to have the United States help capitalize on the trends toward democratization that are now out there need to be efforts that are multilateral efforts that have partners. The weight, if you will, of those of us who are fortunate enough to be on, as I've said, on the right side of freedom. And so I spent a good deal of time on my European trip, and frankly on this Asian trip as well, appealing to other democracies to take an active role with us in helping to create conditions in which people can realize these aspirations.

I want to be very clear. Nobody can impose this democracy. But it's our fundamental belief that you don't have to impose democracy; you impose tyranny. Democracy comes up when people have the belief that it's possible and when you can create conditions in which it's possible. So whether it's Afghanistan or Iraq or the Palestinian territories or Lebanon, the role of those of us in the international system is to help create an environment in which those people can then act.

That's been the most important and the central part of what we've been trying to do, starting more than, you know, more than a year ago the President gave the White House speech, but really, I think, culminating in the inaugural.

Secondly, in dealing with challenges that are out there, it's not a matter of are they coalitions of the willing or the international institutions, but again, you have to decide what it is you're trying to do. So if the goal is to have a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula, and if you can get the neighbors to agree that there ought to be a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula, then your strongest forum in which to do that is one in which the neighbors all sit as equals, and one in which you have different kinds of leverage coming to bear on the problem. We have some leverage. The Chinese have more. The -- and a different kind of leverage. The South Koreans have a different kind of leverage. The Japanese have a different kind of leverage. The Russians have a different kind of leverage. And you can bring those all together in the six-party talks. The North Koreans, obviously, would like it to be bilateral because then they don't have to face the Chinese and the Russians and others.

When it's Iran, again, the EU-3 have taken it -- taken the lead here. The United States then can support the EU-3 diplomacy. So American leadership is essential in international politics, but it doesn't always mean that the United States has to be in the lead on each and every single issue. Sometimes we should work in a regional grouping, like we did -- like we're doing in the six-party talks and like we did for tsunami relief. Sometimes I think we'll find ourselves working through the United Nations, as we're trying to do on Sudan. Sometimes I think we will find ourselves working directly with the Europeans, as we have on Iran.

But the one thing is that on these broad trends that are developing out there, and trying to promote those, that really is the work of a community with shared values. That is the work of people who understand that others sacrificed for them so that they could have those aspirations met. And we started with our European allies but we have similar values in Asia that we can mobilize. We have similar values in Latin America. I'll go soon to the Community of Democracies in Santiago. There are African states who share those values. One of the most touching elements of supports for what happened in Iraq was out of Rwanda, where they said, "How could people turn their backs on what was happening in terms of mass graves in Iraq?" Because of what had happened in Rwanda. So that's how I would describe it.

QUESTION: How are we doing on time? We've got two -- what have we got, Emily?

MS. MILLER: You've got time.

QUESTION: We've got two important questions about two old friends of yours.


QUESTION: Well, one is Steve Hadley. You probably know him better than anyone and you know the job that he has better than anyone. Everybody has their own management style. Based on what you know about those two things, how will you predict his management style to differ from your own?

SECRETARY RICE: Right. Well, what we have in common is -- and, you know, I think all National Security Advisors have to be that way, is you are there, first and foremost, to help the President do his job the way that he needs to do it. That means whatever he needs in terms of information flow and so on. And I've watched Steve now over the last couple of months and he's really good at it. You know, he's just -- he's there for the President.

Steve is also -- he's a very systematic person. And I actually -- on this score, he's going to do a lot better than I was. I am disciplined but not always systematic. I'm, you know, one of those people who goes from A to S and probably should have stopped at H somewhere along the way, but I tend to think kind of more holistically, which isn't always good. You need go through the steps. Steve helped me to do that. Steve, himself, is very good at that and he's very systematic, and I think that will help.

He's got excellent relations with the principals, with the Vice President, with Don, with me, with Porter Goss. And so I think -- and the other thing is that I think Steve will -- Steve has very good ideas. You know, he thinks about -- will see an issue or situation, and he'll say, "Well, why don't we try?" He's really -- he really did with the NSC staff, you know, in coordination with our people here, but pressed the really good agenda that you've seen -- you saw come out of the meetings with Presidents Fox and Prime Minister -- or President Fox and Prime Minister Martin yesterday. Because that's an agenda that is in some sense having to bring the economics people together, the trade people, the homeland security people, and that's really when the NSC is at its best -- the diplomatic people. Bringing all of that together into a U.S. Government agenda is not easy and they did a terrific job of it yesterday. It's very exciting.

QUESTION: The last question. One of the interesting features of the foreign policy landscape now is that the principal debate over American foreign policy is among Republicans, among Republicans of different tendencies. And one of the people who is occasionally critical of this Administration on individual issues is Brent Scowcroft. Has that caused any discomfort in your long friendship with him and have you had a chance to sit down with him since you became Secretary to straighten him out?


SECRETARY RICE: I've had -- I've probably had dinner with Brent at least half a dozen times over the last couple years or so. Brent and I are good friends. And while sometimes I think he doesn't agree with everything that we do, this is not somebody whose commitment to values and democracy I would question. He might at times think that we would do it differently or -- but I always find him a tremendously wise kind of sounding board because I used to say to my students at Stanford, and, Doyle, maybe you had heard me say it on occasion, "If you're always in the company of people who absolutely agree on everything with you, you're in the wrong company." It doesn't hone your thinking to constantly hear, "Oh yes, that's right, oh you're so smart, oh yeah, that's absolutely the way it should be." What good is that?

So not only with Brent but with a lot of my friends from several former lives, I like to have spirited discussion and debate about where it is we're going because that's the only way that you can make sure that you're not, you know, simply living in a kind of bubble about what it is you do.

QUESTION: Any example of an issue where General Scowcroft recently has tweaked your thinking?


SECRETARY RICE: See, that's the best thing about our discussions, is they're private.


QUESTION: Last, last question. We've been waiting anxiously for the first big conflict between you and Secretary Rumsfeld -- (laughter) -- and if it's happened, it's been invisible. What's the biggest -- what's the biggest point of conflict been there?


SECRETARY RICE: There isn't a point of conflict. Don said -- when I was at the NSC and I would call meetings from time to time and, you know, say, you know, we need to have this meeting at 2 o'clock or whatever. Don, backed up by Colin, would say, "Don't you realize, we run very big departments, we have a lot that we have to do, and why do you have to have this meeting?" And so recently I said, "But I have a lot to do. I have a great big department to run." And Don said, "See, I told you so. I finally got you to say it." That's probably the most aggressive we've been.

Look, we have a good relationship, really good relationship, and we've been friends for a long time. And the best thing about Don and about me and our relationship is that we can be absolutely straightforward about whether we agree about something or whether we don't agree about something. I can guarantee you that if you've seen from time to time the Secretary -- the National Security Advisor, the Defense Secretary disagree on -- that it is not being put out by Don and me, and it's probably being sold by somebody who actually doesn't even know what they're talking about.

Because we expect from time to time to have differing views of a particular issue and to work together and try to resolve them and to talk it through. But the idea that you would go through a period as monumental as the one that we've just been through, and everybody would have agreed about every step, is just, you know, it's unfathomable.

QUESTION: Thank you so much for your time.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Nice to see you. 2005/345

Released on March 25, 2005


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