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Rice Interview with Rosalind Jordan of NBC News

Interview with Rosalind Jordan of NBC News

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Embassy Bogotá
Bogotá, Colombia
April 27, 2005

(1315 Local)

QUESTION: First off, Madame Secretary, the 2004 State Department report on terrorism incidents is out, and Congressman Henry Waxman of California is raising concerns that the numbers aren't being revealed in their totality, perhaps to make the war on terror, or rather the fight, look better than it really is. What is your reaction to his concern?

SECRETARY RICE: We have every reason for the American people to know exactly what's going on in the war on terror, and what we're going to do from here on out is we're going to have the numbers prepared by the experts at the NCTC, which is the terrorist center which was created in this latest intelligence bill to be a center where all of the expertise on terrorism can be brought together.

But the key is not just the numbers. What are we doing to fight the war on terrorism? And every day American men and women in uniform are fighting to take away territory from the terrorists in places like Afghanistan. And the Pakistanis, our allies like the Pakistanis, are fighting in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan to take away territory from the terrorists. Every day law enforcement officials and intelligence officials around the world are unified in the fight against terrorism.

This is a war that is going to take some time and it's perhaps not surprising that because we've finally directly confronted terrorism that we're going to see them come after us too. But we cannot fight this war on the defense. We have to fight this war on the offense. Because the truth of the matter is that as much as we are trying to defend the homeland, the terrorists only have to be right once. We have to be right 100 percent of the time. And so we're fighting this war. We're being effective. But it is going to take some time.

QUESTION: Were the numbers delayed not just because of the need to put out an accurate number but perhaps at the request of the Defense Department? It's my understanding that perhaps as many as a third of the incidents recorded last year took place in Iraq.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the numbers are being reported when the numbers are ready. I believe that, in fact, we were to report these numbers, my understanding is, by the end of the month. And so the numbers are going to be reported. They're going to be reported in full. They're going to be reported along with the State Department's country studies that are there to give context to it. And we want the full story to be told.

QUESTION: Your reaction to President Putin's decision to become more hands on in the Mideast peace process?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, Russia is a member of the Quartet, and I think Russia can be quite helpful. It's a good thing that President Putin is visiting Egypt and Israel. We will have a Quartet meeting at the level of foreign ministers in Moscow on May 8th or 9th during the events there. The Russians can be a part of this process in that way.

I've heard about the issue of a potential international conference. I think what we have to do is we need to do what is in front of us, which is to make sure that the withdrawal from the Gaza is successful, and then we'll see what next steps are necessary. But Russia is a part of the Quartet and I think it's been a very valuable part of the Quartet.

QUESTION: So you don't think that he's taking this more forward role to refute criticisms about the way democracy has been progressing in his own country?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think the Russians have very strong interests in the Middle East. They always have had interests in the Middle East. Russia is a member of the Quartet because they've had interests in the Middle East. And of course there are a large number of immigrants from Russia to Israel so that there is a population there that is of Russian descent. In fact, I think a couple of generations ago Prime Minister Sharon himself comes from a family that was of Russian descent. So there are a lot of cultural ties, ties of kinship, and of course since Russia is an important global power it's not surprising that they have a deep interest in Middle East peace.

QUESTION: The Syrian military pullout and intelligence pullout, although the UN says it can't confirm the intelligence assets pullout as of yet, is that a positive step taken by President Assad?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's most certainly a positive step that Syrian forces are going home and it's a positive step that was taken in accordance with Resolution 1559, which required by the Security Council, the UN Security Council, the withdrawal of Syrian forces. It is important that that withdrawal be completed. It is important that this be not just military forces but also intelligence forces. But of course it's a positive step and you can see in the Lebanese people their great joy at the chance that they are about to get for, hopefully, free and fair elections that will allow them to choose a government for the first time without that heavy-handed foreign influence.

QUESTION: What more does Syria need to do in order to improve its standing in the region?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, Syria needs to continue to make sure that it lives up to the letter and the spirit of 1559. That means that their security forces also need to be out of Lebanon. And I mean both declared and undeclared security forces because with a country like Syria there is always nontransparent activity and that needs to be dealt with.

The Syrians need to make sure that they encourage nonviolence and that no one uses violence. And the Syrians, of course, have a lot of influence with many who could turn to violence and Syria has an obligation to tell everyone that these elections need to take place without violence and then the Syrians need to let the Lebanese people chart their course without Syrian interference.

QUESTION: One more on the greater Mideast. Apparently, in interim cabinet may be chosen in Iraq, perhaps as early as Thursday. Your reaction, given your own personal diplomacy in this area?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we've been very clear that this is an Iraqi process, and it's not surprising that it's a difficult process. The Iraqis haven't had what I would call horizontal conversations in many, many years because it has been a dictatorship. And it's a hopeful sign -- a helpful sign that the Iraqis are engaging each other in how to form a government. But they need a government. And the Iraqi people who took their lives into their hands to go and vote are demanding that they have a government. There needs to be a government so that there is no vacuum into which violence can flow. And we have been encouraging the Iraqis to form that government and form it as quickly as possible. But the nature of that government, that really is an Iraqi decision because we helped to liberate Iraq so that the Iraqis can make decisions about their future.

QUESTION: You mentioned transparency in a country's actions. How concerned is the U.S. right now about North Korea's rhetoric and possible attempts at launching a nuclear weapons test?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, clearly, there are reasons to be concerned about the North Koreans. This is probably the least transparent state in the world. It's the place that has isolated itself from the entire international community and it is isolating itself even more by its rhetoric and by its threats to engage in different kinds of activities. We watch and will continue to watch North Korean activities. But the best road ahead is for the North Koreans to recognize that the six-party talks is really the only way that they are going to achieve what they say they want to achieve, which is to be integrated into the international community, to get the benefits of that in terms of economic aid and assistance, some kind of respectability and to do something for the long-suffering North Korean people. The only answer is to do that through the six-party talks, and they're going to have to give up their nuclear weapons programs in order to do it.

QUESTION: The last time we talked you were talking about the Chinese stepping up their involvement in one-on-one talks with the North Koreans. Is the U.S. satisfied with the Chinese actions so far?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I do believe that the Chinese are active in their diplomacy in trying to bring this about. The South Koreans are also active in their diplomacy in trying to bring this about. But it's going to take a North Korean strategic decision that they have no other course.

The good news is that the international community is united behind a view that the North Koreans have got to give up their nuclear weapons in order to achieve any standing in the international system. The North Koreans have been given every reason to come back to the six-party talks. They've been told that if they're prepared to give up their nuclear weapons program. They can have security guarantees as a part of the six-party framework. They've been told that there are states that are prepared to help them with their energy and fuel needs. I am certain that their discussions with states like South Korea, with Japan or with others will go a lot better once they've decided to make the strategic choice about their nuclear weapons programs. They really need to make that choice.

QUESTION: Domestically you see politicians in Congress, you see business leaders, you see agricultural leaders all positioning themselves to fight CAFTA when it comes up for a ratification vote in Congress. What is the U.S. message to the member parties in CAFTA as well as to the other countries that are engaged in FTA negotiations that all of their hard work and trying to comply with WTO standards won't be wasted?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, my message throughout the hemisphere and here as I've been here in Latin America is that the President and the Administration are fully committed to free trade in the hemisphere, free trade on a global scale through the WTO, that we are fully committed to the CAFTA agreement, the CAFTA Dominican Republican agreement, that it's important not just for the economic benefits that it will bring to the region and the economic benefits that it will bring to the United States, but important also for the political stability of these young democracies that in Central America are no more than 15 or so years out of brutal civil wars. If you think about where places like El Salvador or Honduras were just a few years ago, these are countries that now represent the possibility of stable democracy in Central America and all that comes with that.

And so we are devoted to the free trade agenda. Free trade is important to America's economy too, and we're fighting for free trade that is also fair, where the playing field is level. One reason that we're spending so much time in the Doha round of the World Trade Organization talks is that we need to make sure that those who are members of the World Trade Organization are living up to their obligations for a level playing field. So we've had very active discussions with the Chinese about intellectual property rights. We've had very intensive discussions with people about the role of agricultural subsidies. We are defending free trade but we are also defending a level playing field because we believe that if there is a really level playing field American workers, American farmers, American businesses can absolutely compete with anyone.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.

2005/T6-9

Released on April 27, 2005

ENDS


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