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Rice Interview on Nile TV With Nihal Saad

Interview on Nile TV With Nihal Saad

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Cairo, Egypt
June 20, 2005


MS. SAAD: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, thank you very much for coming here and talking to us again on Egyptian television.

SECRETARY RICE: It's a pleasure to be with you again.

MS. SAAD: Welcome to Egypt again, Madame, and let me start with the positive remarks, interpreted as positive remarks that you made just before you started your Middle East tour. You said that the reforms, the political reforms taking place in Egypt, has taken on a trend line, they are a positive development that needs to be encouraged and that eventually Egypt is going to get to the kind of completely open and contested elections.

Now, this seems to be a softer tone than the sharp criticism that you were earlier giving about Egypt and about the political reforms. Your comment, please?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, of course. Well, our view is, and I think we've been consistent about this, is that Egypt is, first of all, a great country and it is a country that tends to set trends in the region. And we were therefore encouraged when President Mubarak decided to make some changes so that the electoral system could be more open, so that you could have competitive presidential elections.

Obviously, there are still elections to be held and those elections will have to meet certain international standards. And I might just note that it's not just on election day, but in the run-up to the elections that opposition leaders can have access to media, that they can associate without fear of violence.

And these are important steps, but it is indeed the case that the fact that the President has opened the door to competitive elections is something that is encouraging and that should continue to be encouraged.

MS. SAAD: And, Madame Secretary, I just want to stay a little while with that point because actually, again, where sharper remarks on Egypt earlier on over the past few months has raised eyebrows here in Egypt among government officials as well the opposition and intellectual circles. That was interpreted somehow as passing judgments, pressuring Egypt, which, as a country as sensitive as Egypt, I mean, such remarks were not acceptable.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the United States isn't going to pass judgment on anyone. Ultimately, the only people who are judging here are the Egyptian people. But there is an international standard that people understand now that is understood worldwide to mean free and fair elections. And a great country like Egypt that's led in so many other ways really can -- Egyptians can lead what is really a remarkable change in this region in terms of freedom of thought, freedom of speech, the ability of people to participate in the selection of those who are going to govern them.

And Egypt is our friend and has been our friend for a long time and we have great admiration for the Egyptian people. We are just encouraging that the people themselves within this region take up what we know are their deeply felt aspirations for democracy and liberty.

MS. SAAD: Are the two words, impose and democracy, ought to be in the same sentence?

SECRETARY RICE: Never can be in the same sentence. You impose tyranny. People come naturally to the idea that they want to say what they think or that they want to worship freely or that they want to have a say in who is going to govern them in the future. And I've always thought that it was a rather strange thing to talk about the imposition of democracy. If you look around the world, when people are given a chance, they throw off tyranny, they go to the ballot box, even if in a place like Iraq or Afghanistan they have to go to the ballot box against great violence against them.

MS. SAAD: So, Madame Secretary, before we leave that issue, I just want to cite a study by the Council on Foreign Relations, which concluded that Islamist movements and political parties are likely to play a prominent role in a more democratic Middle East. Aren't you concerned that perhaps the Middle East would turn into an area which is basically anti-American?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think we have to trust the free choices of the people. And I have to say that democracy is usually a moderating force, not a force that makes for greater extremism. In fact, I think that there was a group of Arab intellectuals a while ago that talked about a freedom deficit in the Arab world. And it's our deeply held belief that is it that freedom deficit that is producing extremism, because if people don't have legitimate channels through which to express their political differences and their political grievances, then they turn outside of the system. And I also find it hard to believe that if given the choice, people will choose to turn their children into suicide bombers. I think they will choose instead to send their children to universities.

MS. SAAD: President Bush, when he was announcing his nomination to you as the Secretary of State, naming you as you as the new Secretary of State, he said that the Secretary of State is America's face to the world. And I'm afraid that somehow related to that issue, the Gitmo debate, which is going on right now, the Guantanamo issue, and according to some American officials, some senators, particularly John McCain was saying or suggesting that Guantanamo has put or placed an image problem to the United States.

Do you find it difficult for you, touring the Middle East, touring Arab countries, that with that image problem it is difficult, more difficult, to push of a reform agenda that talks about democracy and human rights?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I certainly recognize that people have had concerns about our detainee policies. We've tried to demonstrate that at Guantanamo and other places that we, as the President has insisted, respect our international obligations and that we are a country of laws. We believe in international law.

I know that when something like Abu Ghraib happens, that it is indeed a stain on the United States. That cannot be denied. But because you are a democracy, it doesn't mean that bad things will not happen. People will still do bad things. But what is different in a democracy is that democracies are transparent about what has happened. We have our press reporting every day on what is happening in our detainee policies. The Secretary of Defense has --

MS. SAAD: Does that mean that you're looking into it?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, of course. And the Secretary of Defense goes to the Congress and he testifies about what is happening there. So what democracy promises is that people will be open, that there will be due process to punish those who might be responsible; and in that way, I hope that people see the very big difference between the way a democracy handles something like this and a dictatorship.

MS. SAAD: Right. On other foreign policy issues, we've been watching your press conferences in Jerusalem and in Ramallah also. Today, this morning, with Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit in Sharm el-Sheikh, and you said we need to be focused on the roadmap because the roadmap is our guide. Now, the disengagement plan, is that your view that the disengagement plan is part of the roadmap?

SECRETARY RICE: The disengagement -- the historic decision, really, by the Israelis to disengage from the Gaza -- has given us an opportunity, I believe, to gain some confidence, to have the parties gain some confidence in one another, some trust in one another; to give the Palestinians a chance to develop stronger institutions, security institutions, political institutions; to give the Palestinian people a glimpse, a little view of what life can be like when the Gaza is developed economically. And on that basis, then, we should be able to make, I really think, accelerated progress on the roadmap --

MS. SAAD: So what --

SECRETARY RICE: -- if we're able to do this successfully.

MS. SAAD: Does this mean there will a post-Gaza phase?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, there clearly has to be a post-Gaza phase, and it is outlined in the roadmap the steps that the parties will have to take.

MS. SAAD: On Iraq. The Sunnis just said that if they don't get 25 seats out of the 55, the violence will continue. And you said earlier in the press conference that we need to get the Sunnis to be more involved. How are you going to do that? Are you in contact with a third party?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm in contact with the Iraqi Government all the time and members of the Iraqi Government. I think they're making progress. They've probably come to a conclusion about how to have 15 on the committee and some 10 who would be consultants. They're working on names. They're making progress and it's absolutely the case that the Sunnis need to be fully involved.

MS. SAAD: Your views on the insurgency getting worse in May and the figures say there's been 70 dead in May and those dead from the U.S. troops in May and June were the biggest since the war started. And people in Washington, the climate change in Washington or, I mean, there's a political climate that has changed in Washington regarding the issue of Iraq, that there should be an exit strategy, which you call or insist on calling a success strategy.

SECRETARY RICE: That's right. It has to be a success strategy and that means that the Iraqi people need to continue on the very, really pretty rapid political course that they're involved in now where they had elections, they're going to write a constitution, they'll have more elections. The irony is that, at the same time that they're making this great political progress, of course the insurgency is doing everything that it can to disrupt that political process. And because they can cause a lot of carnage and death and destruction on our television screens every day, that's easier to see than the political work that is being done by the Iraqis themselves. But ultimately, as Iraqis see their future as in that political process -- and I now mean the Iraqi people, not the Iraqi leaders -- then the Iraqi people will not tolerate this insurgency.

MS. SAAD: With your permission, just a last question on a lighter note.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes.

MS. SAAD: Your parents, Madame Secretary, absolutely convinced you that you may not be able to have a hamburger at Woolworth's, but you can be the President of the United States. But you announced earlier that you would not be running in the year 2008. What happened to that conviction?

SECRETARY RICE: (Laughter). Well, they thought I could be anything that I wanted to be and I appreciated that kind of upbringing. That's what parents can do for their kids. But I like being Secretary of State and ultimately I want to be a professor again. Or I'm a big fan of the American football and really any sport.

MS. SAAD: You want to --

SECRETARY RICE: So maybe I can be the Commissioner of the National Football League. (Laughter).

MS. SAAD: Right. Madame Secretary, we thank you very much for your time -- busy schedule, so much travel, but thank you for coming here and talking to us again.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Thank you very much.

MS. SAAD: Thank you. 2005/T10-13

Released on June 20, 2005

ENDS


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