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Rice Interview with NY Times & Washington Post

Interview with Richard A. Oppel, Jr. of the New York Times and Jonathan Finer of the Washington Post

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Baghdad, Iraq
May 15, 2005

MR. OPPEL: Your conversations with people today, with Barzani, with Jaafari -- can you talk about some of the specifics? Did you talk about the scope of de-Baathification? Did you talk about having subcommittees and a constitutional committee to include more Sunnis, etcetera, etcetera?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we did, in fact, talk about the need to have de-Baathification that, of course, understands the need for justice but also respects the fact that this now needs to be an inclusive Iraqi process, an inclusive Iraqi Government. So yes, we did have discussions about this. We've had them in the past and we had them today.

In terms of the constitution, I did not try to get into specifics about what process they will use to carry the message that the government has done a very good job in including Sunnis in the government, because, you know, several Sunni ministers, including important ministries like the defense ministry, the ministry of industry, but -- and the speaker, of course, of the parliament.

But now, it is about writing the constitution and there have been concerns about the committee that was appointed and the Sunni representation on that committee. And I found everybody looking to find mechanisms by which the issue of Sunni participation can be addressed, but we did not -- I most certainly did not try to suggest any mechanisms and I think there are a lot of ideas on the table.

MR. FINER: You didn't address it in your remarks earlier, but in some of these interviews it's come up, the relationship between Iraq and two of its neighbors, Syria and Iran.

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, that's true.

MR. FINER: Is part of this trip intended to send some kind of a message to those two neighbors?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I was here because, obviously, this is a government that we have supported from the very beginning in the liberation of Iraq and I've been so proud of the way that the Iraqi people have responded now. I think that the January 30th elections (inaudible) -- they really liberated themselves then from their tyrannical past. So, that's what I came to celebrate and to talk to this government.

But it is true that there are very deep concerns about Iraq's neighbors and I heard particular concerns about Syria, about the gathering of terrorist networks there and the transiting of those networks across the Syrian border.

And Syria is badly out of step in the region, standing in the way of the Iraqi people's desire for peace if it is willing to let its territory be used in this way. It's only recently now beginning to live up to its obligations under Resolution 1559 to get out of Lebanon. And it needs to get everybody out of Lebanon, not just its military forces but also its intelligence forces. And, of course, the Syrians continue to support Palestinian rejectionists at a time when Abu Mazen and the Palestinians are trying their best to create a democratic and transparent government that can begin the process toward the creation of a Palestinian state. So the Syrians need to take a look at where they are and get in step with the region.


Released on May 15, 2005

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