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North Korea Would Gain by Ending Its Nuclear Prog.

North Korea Would Gain by Ending Its Nuclear Programs, Rice Says

Secretary also discusses U.N. reform, Iraq, Gaza withdrawal in interview

By Todd Bullock
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- North Korea can expect to have "a road toward normalization of relations with the United States" if it is prepared to make the strategic choice of verifiably dismantling its nuclear programs, says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

South Korea also stands ready to help North Korea deal with its energy needs through conventional electricity generation, Rice said in a September 12 interview with the New York Times editorial board.

Turning to the human-rights situation in North Korea, the secretary acknowledged North Korea's sovereignty but said the United States is not going to stop addressing its human-rights concerns with Pyongyang.

"It's important that light be shone on that and ultimately it backfires if you are not prepared to try to make a society more open; it backfires even on your ability to try and verify arms control agreements, for instance," Rice said.

Negotiators representing North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States returned to Beijing September 13 to continue the fourth round of Six-Party Talks to remove the threat of nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula. (See U.S. Policy Toward North Korea.)

U.N. REFORM

Addressing the issue of U.N. reform, the secretary emphasized that the United States is focused on reform of the organization's management practices and its Secretariat.

U.N. diplomats are currently negotiating on the key document known as the "Outcome Agreement" that will be signed by more than 150 presidents and prime ministers at the conclusion of the special three-day summit preceding the 60th U.N. General Assembly. (See The United Nations at 60.)

The U.N. ambassadors have reached agreement in the areas of terrorism, human rights and peace building for the document, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said in a press conference September 12. (See related article.)

"From our point of view, this is an opportunity for the U.N. to adopt a reform agenda, a reform agenda, by the way, that [U.N. Secretary-General] Kofi Annan has said that he very much wants," Rice said.

The secretary also thanked the United Nations for its relief contributions to the United States for victims of Hurricane Katrina. (See Hurricane Katrina.)

IRAQ

Regarding Iraq, Rice said that while the insurgency there continues to be lethal, it is not gaining a political foothold in the country, adding that some parts of the Sunni community have begun fighting the insurgents.

She cited an improvement in Iraq's political process through an increase in voter registration of Iraqi Sunnis.

"Even if they [Iraqi Sunnis] don't like the constitution and some of them may try to defeat it, they've decided that what they want to do is they want to try to have...a voice in the government," Rice said.

"[O]nce you have significant Sunni participation, Shi'a, Kurd, now you have a possibility for cross-cutting sectarian lines in ways that you actually did not with the Sunnis sitting on the fence," she said.

The secretary cited progress with the training of Iraqi security forces but also acknowledged that some units are not yet capable of operating on their own.

Rice said the United States has also been working with Iraq's neighbors to convince them that if Iraq can find a "national compact" by which the Shi'a-majority population does not necessarily mean the absence of a Sunni political voice, then Iraq does not become a destabilizing factor between the Sunni and Shi'a.

"I think they feel somewhat better now that there is an active Sunni participation in the political process," she said. (See Iraq’s Political Process.)

GAZA WITHDRAWAL

Addressing Israel's recent withdrawal from Gaza, Rice characterized the action as "something quite remarkable."

She praised both Israel's Defense Forces and the Palestinians for their conduct during the withdrawal.

However, Rice noted there are still a couple of issues to resolve, such as whether or not the Palestinians can demonstrate they are able to exercise control in Gaza in a way that gives confidence to Israel and others.

"The best thing the Palestinian Authority can do to disable Hamas is to show that it is not corrupt, it is governing, it is delivering for its people. And we're trying to help them do that," she said.

"I will tell you that at all levels of the Palestinian Authority and Israeli Government, you do hear the cooperation has gone well, the coordination has gone well," Rice said.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority want to work together, she said, and "I think our goal has to be to give them a reason to continue to work together."

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