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Condoleezza Rice IV With Liberian Star Radio

Interview With Wellington Geevon Smith of Liberian Star Radio

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Monrovia, Liberia
January 16, 2006

QUESTION: ForStar Radio we are with Dr. Condoleezza Rice. She is Secretary of State of the United States. Welcome to Star Radio.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. It's nice to be here.

QUESTION: This is your first time coming to Liberia?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, in fact, I was in Liberia as a little girl because my aunt taught at the University of Liberia in the early '60s. I was only here though for about a day and I was six or seven years old, so I don't remember very much.

QUESTION: And now we go to serious business. What is United States foreign policy agenda for postwar Liberia?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, we are delighted to be here today, the First Lady and I, for the inauguration of Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf. We believe this will open a new chapter for Liberia after many years of civil war and struggle. And we are proud that the United States played a small part in helping to bring Liberia to this day, but it is really Liberians who went out and voted and have now decided that they want a peaceful future. As I've gone along the streets I've seen signs that say: "Put Away Your Guns, Liberians, Liberians Are Going to Build a Peaceful Future." And I believe that Liberia will do that. And the world should stand by Liberia to educate its population, to develop jobs for its population and to turn a new page with some really great people, the Liberian people.

QUESTION: You saw the condition of this country, impoverished, backwardness. What do you think international community, specifically the United States, wants Liberia to do to qualify for debt relief?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the first key to debt relief is to have sound economic policies in place, policies that show that there will be budget discipline, that money will be well spent. We have a great deal of confidence in your new President, who understands these economic matters very well, who has dealt with the world community, the World Bank; and I'm sure that she will embark on an economic reform program and all Liberians should support that economic reform program.

It won't be easy at the beginning. No economic reform is easy. But Liberia has resources. Liberia has people who can be well educated. And I'm quite sure that if the right economic policies are followed, that the world will look at debt relief, will look at further assistance, because everybody wants Liberia to succeed.

QUESTION: The United States has spent an enormous amount of money in restructuring of the armed forces of Liberia. What kind of army does the U.S. want to produce for Liberia?

SECRETARY RICE: There has been great progress in the restructuring the Liberian armed forces. There should be a unified Liberian armed force where the army's loyalty is to the constitution and to the country. The armed forces should stay out of politics. They should defend the country but leave it to the Liberian people and to their elected leaders to make decisions about the country. It needs to be a military that can be a force of upward mobility for young people who join the armed forces.

But if you look at where Liberia was three years ago, this country has already made great progress and I think it will make much more progress over the next few years.

QUESTION: And how long the U.S. reforming with the army will go? How long?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the reform plan still has a ways to go. The formal plan has more than a year to go. But I think that the United States will not be the only country that will want to be involved in the reform of the army, the reform of the police, which is equally important to a country's future. But the reform of the army is quite critical because you cannot have a democratic state unless you have a civilian-controlled army that is supportive of and loyal only to the constitution.

QUESTION: One major issue Liberians have and which has some regional interpretation is the issue of former President Charles Taylor. There are conflicting signals coming from the United States and the European Union on one hand and the regional leaders on the other hand regarding Taylor's trial. What is the definite position of Bush Administration on this issue?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the United States believes with most of the world that Charles Taylor needs to be brought to justice for the acts that he took against the Liberian people, and he will be brought to justice. We are working with the Nigerians. We will work with the new government to make certain that he does face justice.

But I want to close by saying that this is not a day about Charles Taylor. He is finished in terms of the pillaging and destruction of this country. This is a day for the future of Liberians. This is the day to elect -- to inaugurate the first African woman to be elected President on the whole continent. This is a day for great celebration and I'm just proud to be a part of it, as is Mrs. Bush and President Bush, who sends his best wishes also to the Liberian people.

QUESTION: And then I want to know what do you think of Mrs. Bush's statement? (Laughter.) She wants to see Dr. Rice one day as the first female President of the United States.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, that statement sure has gotten around, all the way here in Liberia. (Laughter.) Mrs. Bush is not only a fantastic First Lady, she's also my friend and I'm honored that she would say so, but I have other things in mind for my life.

QUESTION: Is there anything, final word, to the people of Liberia?

SECRETARY RICE: My final word to the people of Liberia would be to just look at how far this country has come in three years. And I remember the pictures of the violence and the young men running in the streets with guns. You now have an elected leader and it is the responsibility of every citizen of Liberia now to be a part of this democracy, to safeguard this democracy, to care about what happens in this country.

There are going to be very great struggles ahead because it is a country that has been ravaged by civil war and that has to recover, but I believe that Liberia has a good future, a really good future, and America is going to stand with you.

QUESTION: Thank you, Dr. Rice.




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