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Rice Interview With Nick Watt of ABC

Interview With Nick Watt of ABC

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
May 15, 2005

QUESTION: Dr. Rice, there were reports yesterday that certain hardline Sunni elements have offered some kind of peace in exchange for a greater role in the political process. Can you tell us anything about this?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I have been having discussions here with the members of the Iraqi Government about an inclusive political process. And how that process unfolds is really for Iraqis to decide. But our view is -- and I think the view of the international community -- that it's extremely important that, as is the case with the government, that the constitutional process be one that includes Sunnis, even though they were underrepresented in the voting and therefore underrepresented in the national assembly.

I found an openness to that view because I think that the Iraqi people understand that there has to be one Iraq and it has to be for all Iraqis.

QUESTION: But Dr. Jafari is a well-known proponent of de-Baathification, to whatever degree. What was his reaction to your views that you've just expressed?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, they were views that were expressed by Dr. Jafari, in fact, that he believes that the future of Iraq is with all Iraqis. When you think about what they have achieved over the last year, it is really quite remarkable. Sovereignty has not even been transferred for one year yet. We forget that. And yet, they have had elections on time despite the fact that many people thought they could not do it by January 30th. Iraqis voted in large numbers. They then put together a government which had broad representation of all groups and they are now about to embark on a constitutional process.

QUESTION: Although, I mean, the committee put together to form the constitution -- 55 members, I believe, only two Sunni -- and there is nothing that you can do about that.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we've made the point that whatever the nature of this committee, that it is everyone's view -- and I think it is the view of Iraqis broadly -- that there must be an inclusive process for writing the constitution. The constitution is about the future of Iraq. It has to be a constitution in which all Iraqis see a path to a better future.

QUESTION: And you are confident that Dr. Jafari and the other elected officials -- the Shiite officials -- are open to this idea and will welcome involvement from the Sunnis and others.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, in fact, Dr. Jafari talked about trying to find different mechanisms by which this might happen. Again, it is not for the United States, the international community, to try and determine the details. This is now a freely elected government in a sovereign nation. But the international community and the United States, in particular, does have a stake in an Iraq that is unified, that is multiethnic and multifaceted, and that really can represent the views of all Iraqis.

QUESTION: And you've also pushed or asked for the momentum to be kept up.


QUESTION: The August 15th deadline for the constitution, is that still realistic?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the Iraqis have made every deadline that they've faced. It's quite remarkable when you think back, all the way back to drafting the TAL, the Transitional Administrative Law, which people said couldn't be done. And then, of course, we transferred sovereignty two days ahead of time. And then when everyone said the elections had to be postponed, they not only surprised the world, but inspired the world, by the way that they went out in large numbers and voted.

So I'm confident that they understand -- the Iraqi Government understands -- the need to maintain a political momentum. It is partly meeting deadlines. It's also having a clear view that the Iraqis are themselves being trained now to take a larger role in security, that we're trying to address and they are trying to address infrastructure needs.

QUESTION: Although Operation Matador, as we saw, was largely a U.S. operation. How can the Iraqi Government be seen as strong in the face of terror? And a second part to that question is, how difficult is it for the Iraqi Government to be seen as sovereign and powerful when they get visits like this?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I visit many countries that are sovereign and you wouldn't question -- I was in Great Britain not too long ago. I don't think anybody would question the sovereignty of Great Britain. We have been partners with the Iraqi people, first in their liberation. And by the way, yes, American and coalition forces liberated this country from Saddam Hussein, but when the Iraqi people voted on January 30th, they liberated themselves from their horrible, tyrannical past and they said that they wanted a united and joint future.

So we're going to continue to be friends of the Iraqi people. We're going to continue to be partners. The international community should be rallying around this extraordinary young democracy that is growing up right here in the heart of the Middle East. But they need help, like many young democracies need help. And so the Iraqi Government before them, the interim government and now this government made clear that they need the help of the multinational force -- a force, by the way, that is here under a UN Security Council resolution, which is here for the expressed purpose of helping the Iraqis defend themselves against terrorists who are killing innocent Iraqis.

And so, yes, they need help, but they will eventually be self-sufficient in this area.

QUESTION: And you will win this diplomatically rather than militarily?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, you defeat the terrorist on many fronts: politically, by keeping the political momentum in a process that is for all Iraqis; in terms of economic development and delivery of services; and, of course, by security measures that the Iraqis can take themselves, that they will take jointly with the coalition forces and that sometimes will have to be taken on their behalf. But in any case, this is a multifaceted approach to defeating these terrorists who would try and stop the progress that the Iraqi people are now making.

QUESTION: Dr. Rice, thank you for your time.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. 2005/T7-05

Released on May 16, 2005


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