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Rice: Federalism Issue in Iraqi Will Evolve

Rice Says Federalism Issue in Iraqi Constitution Will "Evolve"

Secretary of state also addresses role of HAMAS in Palestinian politics

“One of the smartest things” writers of the draft Iraqi Constitution did, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said September 30, was leave room for that nation’s next elected assembly to write rules that further will define the respective roles of a central government and regional governments.

“The constitution that they have drafted acknowledges a federal system, but I think they’re still going to have quite a debate about exactly what that means. And we have to say that however they choose to define that, I think, we will understand that that is an Iraqi choice,” Rice said in a question and answer period following an address at Princeton University.

Iraqis are scheduled to vote October 15 on the draft constitution, with elections for a new national assembly scheduled for January 2006.

The next assembly, Rice said, should be more representative, as Sunnis, who largely shunned the January assembly elections, “are registering in droves to be part of this political process. And if you had a more representative assembly, then I think those rules will probably get written in a way that addresses the interests of various competing interests, some who want a more federalized state, others who want a more centralized state.”

Most important, the secretary said, is that the end result is a united Iraq. “But of course, with any united Iraq, you could have a different distribution of powers and different distribution of responsibilities between the center and the regions and I think you will see that.”

Rice said the U.S. Constitution was amended numerous times since its initial approval and that the Iraqi Constitution also likely will evolve over time.

Rice also was asked about the future role of the terrorist group HAMAS in a Palestinian state. “We’ve been very clear that HAMAS is a terrorist group and it has to be disbanded, both for peace and security in the Middle East and for the proper functioning of the Palestinian Authority.”

Rice pointed out that under the plan for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – the so-called road map – the Palestinian Authority has an obligation to disband militias and armed resistance groups. “There are periods of time of transition in which one has to give some space to the participants, in this case the Palestinians, to begin to come to a new national compact.

“But I cannot imagine, in the final analysis, a new national compact that leaves an armed resistance group within the political space. You cannot simultaneously keep an option on politics and an option on violence.”

HAMAS, Rice said, stands for a one-state solution to the conflict and for the destruction of Israel. “HAMAS is an organization that asks Palestinian mothers and fathers to give their children up to make themselves suicide bombers. And it is a real detriment and block to further peace in the Middle East, so we’re not at all confused by this. We do, I think, need to give the Palestinians some space to try and reconcile their national politics, but they’re going to eventually have to disarm these groups. They can’t have it both ways.”

Turning to a question on U.S. policy in Latin America, Rice said the United States is encouraging growth “so that economic development can take place, good governance and democratic governance, and that means that those who are democratically elected need to continue to govern democratically. And free trade, which makes it possible to have an engine for that economic growth.”

Rice also said there needs to be a concerted effort to ensure that the economic growth that is occurring in Latin America results in “tangible benefits for the people.”

The United States stands ready to work with democratic governments across the political spectrum in Latin America, Rice said. “Our view is right of center, left of center, not our issue; democratically elected, we can work with them. The problem is that you are getting some, in the Latin American term ‘populist governments’ that are appealing to the social justice message and that ground cannot be ceded to people who are not going to be responsible in their economic policies.”

For more information on the Iraqi Constitution, see Iraq's Political Process on the State Department Web site.

For more information on the roap map for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, see The Middle East: A Vision for the Future Key Documents on the State Department Web site.

For more information on U.S. Latin American policy, see The Americas on the State Department Web site.

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