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Rice & Kuwaiti FM Sheik Dr. Mohammed Sabah

Remarks with the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheik Dr. Mohammed Sabah Al-Sabah After Their Meeting

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
May 19, 2005

(1:30 p.m. EDT)

SECRETARY RICE: Good afternoon, I'm delighted to welcome Foreign Minister of Kuwait Dr. Al-Sabah. Welcome. He's been a good friend of the United States for many years and we were just saying that this is our first meeting here in Washington but we've seen each other at a couple of events, including at the London Conference, which Prime Minister Blair arranged to support the Palestinians.

We have had an excellent discussion and I had the opportunity, firsthand, to tell the Foreign Minister how deeply impressed and appreciative we are of Kuwait's decision to give the franchise to vote to women. It is an historic decision. It is a courageous decision. It is a decision that I know will mean the world for Kuwaiti women and for Kuwaitis more generally. But it also is a symbol of tremendous political leadership in the region because with the empowerment of women, societies are complete. And now as Kuwait moves toward other reforms, it will do so with its entire population active in that process. And so, Minister, congratulations to you on that point.

And then we had decisions on the situation in Iraq and the support of Iraq's neighbors for the new Government of Iraq. We talked about the Palestinian-Israeli issues and the need to support the process that is going on there and a number of bilateral issues. I also had a chance to thank the Minister for Kuwait's steadfast support and activity in the war on terrorism.

So we have an excellent friend in Kuwait and it's a great pleasure to have you here, Minister.

FOREIGN MINISTER AL-SABAH: Thank you very much, Madame Secretary, it's really -- I'm very honored and pleased to be here in this beautiful building and to be greeted and received by you. Our relationship, as you said, goes way back. The first time when you visited my country, back in 1999, and that is a date when His Highness the Emir presented and signed into a law the universal suffrage. At that time, it was defeated by our parliament by just two votes. Six years later, we managed to convince our parliament to vote in favor of the bill and thank God, now all Kuwaitis are participating in the shaping of the future of our society. His Highness is extremely pleased and delighted that finally all his citizens are able to participate in the political process.

We had a wonderful, as you said, discussion and I'm glad to hear the commitment of the United States to stability in the region. And to stability not only in Iraq but also in resolving the long overdue problem, the Palestinian-Israeli problem. This is a commitment that we share with the United States in the two-state solution and the roadmap that the Quartet is embarking on. This is an opportunity for us to express to you, Madame Secretary, and to the American people our gratitude for the continuous support that the United States is providing to our people. And also we thank you for revisiting the visa issue for our students who are eager to come to the United States and to get their higher education from your great institutions.

Thank you very much for your hospitality.


QUESTION: Madame Secretary, has the United States Government had any formal or informal contacts with countries, other than Venezuela and Cuba, in the case of Luis Posada Carriles -- so that the United States can send him abroad?

SECRETARY RICE: The case of Mr. Posada is under discussion by appropriate authorities. This is a case that the Department of Homeland Security now will handle in its normal course. The issues here concern understanding the record of Mr. Posada and then making judgments about what that means about his request and that's all I'm able to say at this point.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, in the New York Times today, there's an article that senior military leaders, both at the Pentagon and in Iraq, are claiming that it is possible that the U.S. mission in Iraq could fail. Also that there will not be a major withdrawal of U.S. troops late this year or early next year as had been planned, that U.S. forces could be in Iraq for some time, based on the fact that the security forces, particularly the Iraqi police, that aren't coming online quickly enough.

Do you have any comment or reaction to that, please?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'll only say that I believe the President has always said that his strategy is a strategy for success. He doesn't have an exit strategy; he has a success strategy. And as I said when I was recently in Iraq, the United States is there, along with other coalition members, to support the Iraqis, to help them with their security until their forces are capable of doing that on their own.

Now, the Iraqi security forces are making progress. I think no one believes that they are currently capable of carrying out those missions on their own, but if you look at the way that they performed at the time of the elections, for instance, they performed really very, very well. There is no doubt that there are determined killers, determined terrorists who are trying very hard to uproot and to unravel the political process that is in place and since insurgencies are defeated as much politically as militarily, but what we're very focused on is helping that political process to move as expeditiously as possible and with momentum.

And the Foreign Minister and I did have discussions about the importance of an Iraqi political process that is inclusive of all Iraqis. A process in the constitution drafting that is inclusive of all Iraqis as an answer to those who would try and derail this process. So it's a difficult proposition that the Iraqis are engaged in. They are just emerging from a very long national nightmare with tyranny. Saddam Hussein was a terrible threat not just to his own people but to his neighbors and we have very good evidence of that, standing next to the Foreign Minister of Kuwait, who suffered at the hands of that very destabilizing force that was Saddam Hussein.

And so it is not as if the situation that we found ourselves in was somehow preferable to the situation that we're in now, but it's going to be a difficult road to help the Iraqis to have a sustainable democracy. That's our goal. The military side of this is -- it's important for Iraqis to take on these tasks, but the political side is, right now, we think of equal or greater importance.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, after receiving His Excellency, do you have any specific progress or strategy for future cooperation on major topics in the Middle East, i.e. Iraq and the peace process?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we have had a number of discussions. Kuwait, as you know, is a major ally of the United States, holding special status, as a non-NATO ally -- a non-NATO major ally. And we have discussions that are befitting that relationship. Those discussions that we have had today with His Excellence and I've had today -- befit a relationship that is broad and we talked about the upcoming -- there will be a conference soon that the Iraqis will be hosting along with the United States and the European Union. I know that Kuwait will be willing to participate in that. They are giving great support to the new Iraqi Government.

We've had an extensive discussion of the Middle East peace process. And the support that can be given to the Palestinian Authority as they go through this next extremely important several months getting ready to take over the Gaza and the four settlements in the West Bank, as the Israelis withdraw. And so I suspect that we're going to have a lot of conversations over the next several months, because we are coming into a very crucial period.

QUESTION: Thank you. Madame Secretary, there's new evidence that Iran is trying to import some ceramic components for their nuclear weapons program. This is some information that's just being developed. Do you have -- and you've spoken extensively about the Iran problem. Have you heard of these reports and do you have any new information you can address on these concerns?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm not sure to which reports you're referring. Look, if the Iranians from our point of view have not been transparent in their nuclear activities. That's why we are where we are. The Iranians who are obligated to under the Nonproliferation Treaty not to seek nuclear weapons program under cover of civilian nuclear program have given the world enough pause about their activities partly because they've not been transparent and partly because activities have had to be found out, rather than reported, that the entire international community is saying to the Iranians there has to be a special handling of Iranian nuclear activities.

That's why the EU-3 is engaged in negotiations that they are. That's why the Russians in the Bushehr Nuclear Reactor Program built in certain proliferation safeguards, including a fuel provision and fuel take-back provision. It's -- that's why the IAEA has not been able to close the file on the Iranian programs. So I can't comment on any specific reports, but I can say that there is significant concern around the world about the Iranian nuclear program.

And I just want to add that it's not just the Iranian nuclear program, but of course Iran which has been a state sponsor of terrorism, which is out of step with a region that is trying very hard now to move toward a two-state solution, the Iranians are -- should not consider themselves immune from the major changes that are going on in the region and we would hope that they would begin to engage in more stabilizing behavior.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: One last question.

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, last question from the Arab journalists. They didn't get a chance yet.

QUESTION: (Inaudible), Al Jazeera, Washington.


QUESTION: Thanks, Madame Secretary. Other than the women issue in Kuwait, what would you -- would like to see in the future? And for Mr. Ambassador, nice to see you again, are you going to help the Palestinian State financially? And thank you.


FOREIGN MINISTER AL-SABAH: Well, our support to the Palestinian cause has been very well-founded. The Palestinian cause was borne in Kuwait back in the early '60s and we have never wavered from supporting our Palestinian brothers.

Of course, with respect to continuous support -- financial support to the two-state solution, now I have already indicated that Kuwait on-record is supporting this. And we are -- we have just resumed our financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority and we are looking forward to receive Mr. Mohamed Abbas in Kuwait as we have done just a few months ago.

SECRETARY RICE: And we talked about the forward progress that Kuwait has made. Let me just say before we move on from what comes next, let's remember that a major milestone really has been passed here and I'm quite sure now that women have been given the franchise -- that the empowerment of women, women's ability to organize and to be really a part of the political process will be of concern to all Kuwaitis and we talked about human rights and reform. But I have a lot of confidence that our Kuwaiti allies are looking hard at how Kuwait in its continued opening and liberalization of its politics can be a very important model for what else can be done in the Gulf and in the Middle East.

Thank you very much.


Released on May 19, 2005


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