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Condoleezza Rice Interview On Egyptian TV

Condoleezza Rice Interview On Egyptian TV

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Cairo, Egypt
February 22, 2006

QUESTION: Dr. Rice, we're very pleased to have you with us on Egyptian Television.

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

QUESTION: How was your meeting with the President?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, we had an excellent meeting. I have great admiration for the President. He's a wise man. He has known the issues that we're dealing with for a very long time and, of course, he's a good friend of the United States. We talked about the full range of regional issues. We talked about the changes that are going on here in Egypt. It was a very good conversation.

QUESTION: Just before you came, you said no FTA, you pushed for more reform and called for turning down Hamas. What's in it for us?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, in fact, on the FTA, we will continue to talk about the FTA. The timing's not right just now, but we want to have an FTA with Egypt because we believe that it will make a difference to economic reform and ultimately to the economy here in Egypt. FTAs are a good thing and we will continue to discuss them.

QUESTION: Of course.

Secretary Rice with the Egyptian TV crew following the interview. State Department photo. SECRETARY RICE: The United States and Egypt share a common vision of a Middle East that is at peace, a common vision that Egypt has sacrificed greatly for when Anwar Sadat decided to make peace. He led the world in peace and, of course, paid for it with his life. And now we have a situation in which we can, I think, have peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, but in which we need the new government of the Palestinian territories to be one that accepts the responsibilities of peace, that accepts the requirements of peace, that accepts that on behalf of the Palestinian people there will have to be cooperation with Israel. That means that there has to be a recognition of Israel's right to exist. So I think this is a common vision that we and Egypt share.

QUESTION: When will this timing of the FTA, in your opinion, be correct?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I can't predict, but I think that we will continue to discuss it. We've had very good discussions with Egypt about economic reform issues. We've had progress on qualified industrial zones that Egypt has participated in in the region and so our economic relationship is moving forward. At some point, we'll return to negotiation of the FTA.

QUESTION: We hope to see that absolutely. Why are you excluding Israel from efforts to keep the Middle East free from weapons of mass destruction?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we certainly hope that one day there is going to be a Middle East in which no one needs to contemplate a weapon of mass destruction. It will take a Middle East that is more democratic, a Middle East in which --

QUESTION: So it's all depending on democracy first?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think it's the issue of a Middle East where everyone feels that their security concerns can be met is one that is going to be helped very much by a more democratic future. But let me say that we are working very hard with Egypt on issues of nonproliferation. Egypt took, I think, a courageous decision in the IAEA to support the international consensus -- by the way, a consensus that included India and Russia and China -- that Iran's case should be referred to the Security Council.

QUESTION: I see. You said your trip would be to continue to push for political reform. American calls for democracy have unwittingly brought unprecedented support for the Muslim Brotherhood, but you're not happy with the Muslim Brotherhood in power. Is this some kind of designer's democracy then, Dr. Rice?

SECRETARY RICE: No. The United States is going to stand for the principle of democracy. It stands for the principle that people have a right to choose those who are going to govern them. Sometimes there will be outcomes that we don't like, but we can't have a policy that says you can only vote if you vote in a way that the United States prefers. We will stand for the principle.

Now, once people are elected to power, they have a responsibility then to those who elected them to rule democratically, not to rule by fiat or not to rule undemocratically. They also have a responsibility to give up and to renounce violence and terrorism, because you can't on the one hand be in the political process and on the other hand continue to pursue violence.

QUESTION: Excessive meddling has brought the Shiites in Iraq to power. Their neighboring Iranians are Shia. The Sunnis are compromised. America's trusted Arab allies are Sunnis. There's a brewing civil war in Iraq. What have you done?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't think there is a brewing civil war in Iraq. I think what you have in Iraq is a country that has thrown off the yoke of a terrible, horrible dictator, who by the way, created all kinds of instability in this region with his wars against his neighbors. Now that that dictator is gone, you have the Iraqi people, who come from many different sects, from different ethnic groups, trying to use a political process, a process of compromise and politics, to replace repression.

The Shia are the largest group in Iraq and so it's not surprising that they will have a significant role to play in the government. But the Shia are not -- were not elected as a majority in these last elections. So the Shia, in order to form a government, will have to make common cause with Kurds and with Sunnis and with others. You're going to have to have a unity government in Iraq. And so it is not that the Shia will dominate others; it is that the Shia, as a large group, will have their rightful place, but they will have to make common cause with others in order to govern.

QUESTION: When will Egypt be an economic partner with the U.S. besides a peace partner? When will we see a relationship among friends, not being given commands like Egypt subordinates or, if I may say, Egyptian coolies?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that Egypt is obviously a proud country and a country that we consider a partner. The United States isn't making dictates to Egypt. We come as a friend, not as a judge. Our view is that this great country can lead a process that is now well underway in the Middle East, a process of democratization, a process of Egyptians choosing the form of government that they will have, of Egyptians choosing those who will govern them.

I came here eight months ago and I spoke at the American University in Cairo, and I talked about the fact that all around the world people are responding to their natural right to have a say in who governs them. So much has happened in this country in that eight-month period. You have had contested presidential elections for the first time in which the president had to ask for the consent of the governed. You've had parliamentary elections where there is tremendous turnover in the parliament, some 75 percent turnover in the parliament. That's a major change.

It's true that I think there have been disappointments and setbacks in this process of change and reform: the postponement of the local elections; some of the nature of what went on around the parliamentary elections. But the process of reform is going to go on here because Egyptians, I think, want a process of reform. This is not what the United States wants; this is our belief that all people have the desire for the human dignity that comes with being able to have a say in who will govern you.

QUESTION: Your attempt to reshuffle the State Department is overdue but quite original. Very, very good, indeed. Can that mean a new phase in partnership with Egypt, changing, bringing in your experts and your good ambassadors down to the Middle East?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, absolutely. We are changing the State Department to pursue what we call transformational diplomacy, meaning working with our partners around the world to try and help people produce a better life for their people. It means that the United States needs more Arabic speakers. We need more Farsi speakers. We need more people who really know the cultures. We need to be able to move some of our diplomats out of Europe, where we really think that now our need is greater in places like the Middle East, in places like Asia, and we're making those changes.

When I was a young specialist on Russia and on the Soviet Union, the United States made a very big push to have its best and brightest to learn Russia and learn Russian. In the United States now, I think the country is saying we have to understand other cultures, we have to speak other languages. And I would expect that that will have an impact on who we can send to places like Egypt.

QUESTION: According to Forbes you've been voted the most powerful woman and unprecedented trust with President Bush, but then his ratings are sagging. What with the brunt of the ongoing war and the pictures keep on coming and the logic behind Guantanamo, what are you going to do?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, the President is always going to do what he needs to do to protect the United States and to promote world peace. And we're in a very tough war on terrorism. We have fought now, and our Americans have given their lives, to try and deal with the terrorist threat.

You have had terrorist incidents here in Egypt, in Sharm el-Sheikh. Jordan, just next door, has had, of course, the terrible bombing of a Palestinian wedding. All around the world, these terrorists have gone after innocent people. They haven't just gone after armies or gone after governments. They've gone after innocent people.

When you have an enemy like that, it is necessary that you protect your people from them. And so when people are found to be engaging in terrorism or found to be fighting our forces on the battlefields of Afghanistan, we are going to detain them. It's all but appropriate that we detain them.

QUESTION: Finally, ma'am, collective punishment of the Palestinians by drying up resources of Hamas, or any power, for that matter, bearing in mind it is your democracy that brought them there.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, Hamas has been elected and we understand that the Palestinian people voted for change. I think they voted for change because they were looking at a government that had not delivered for them, that had been corrupt, that Fatah had not made the necessary changes. By the way, Abu Mazen had tried to make changes and we need to acknowledge that he had made some changes, and he continues to be a good partner for us.

But Hamas is a terrorist organization and it has to make now a choice. It has to make a choice as to whether or not it is going to be able to live up to the responsibilities of governing, whether or not it is going to meet the requirements of governing. You can't deliver a peaceful and better life to your people if you're not committed to peace.

And so all that is being asked of Hamas is that they do what a responsible government would do: recognize that they have to have a cooperative relationship with Israel and that they have to have a partner in peace, as Egypt has recognized, as Jordan has recognized, as Mahmoud Abbas recognized and the Palestinian Authority recognized that there needed to be a cooperative relationship; renounce violence, give over to a peaceful path.

We would like nothing better, actually, than to see Hamas succeed. But they need to succeed -- they will only succeed if it's on the basis of a platform for peace. That is what this country, Egypt, has been dedicated to since the time of Anwar Sadat. That is what the international community is dedicated to through the roadmap. That is what we all need to be dedicated to and we are hopeful and we wait for Hamas to make that determination.

QUESTION: I don't know, Secretary Rice, if you will give me the liberty of one more question. It's to do with the fact that, of course, Egypt hasn't had diplomatic ties with Iran for the past 25 years. How do you expect us to help you there? And if you're going to plan for the African American dream, voting for yourself for President in 2008?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the second one is an easy question. (Laughter.) No, I'm very happy doing what I'm doing and I suspect I'll be back at Stanford or maybe running a sports team. That's what I'd really like to do with my life. But the --


SECRETARY RICE: The Iran question, yes. Iran is a troubling presence currently in the region. It is seeking a nuclear weapon under cover of civil nuclear power. It is supporting terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Palestinian rejectionists. And we and Egypt -- neither of us with diplomatic relations but nonetheless, particularly Egypt, which is a leader in the region -- can make very clear that the world expects Iran to live up to the demands of the international community. It's not the United States that has set the requirement that Iran cooperate with the IAEA, that Iran give up on enrichment and reprocessing on Iranian territory. No one wants to deny Iran a civil nuclear program. That's not the issue. Iran can have a civil nuclear program, but it has to do it in a way that allows the international system to have -- and the international community -- to have confidence that Iran is not going to build a nuclear weapon.

QUESTION: Well, thank you very much for your time.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. 2006/T3-2

Released on February 22, 2006


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