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Condoleezza Rice Latin America Trip Briefing


Trip Briefing

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
En Route to San Juan, Puerto Rico
March 10, 2006

SECRETARY RICE: Good morning. We're off to Santiago, Chile, which I'm very much looking forward to. I wanted very much to attend the inauguration of President Bachelet and it gives me an opportunity to reaffirm America's very strong friendship and relationship with Chile. It has been a relationship that for almost two decades now has been a relationship based on democratic values. And so it will give me an opportunity to reaffirm America's very strong relationship and friendship with Chile and with the Chilean people, a relationship that's based on democratic values. I'll also have an opportunity to have meetings with a number of other leaders in the area and I look forward to that as well. We'll talk about the other parts of the trip as we progress, but this will be a wonderful opportunity in Latin America to talk about the positive agenda that the United States has for our relationship with Latin America, a relationship that is increasingly one of democracies. That's the basis of the OAS Democratic Charter. A relationship that is based on prosperity and trade, but that also recognizes the importance of the ability of democracies to deliver for their people.

And out of Monterey a couple of years ago a much stronger sense that issues of health, human capital development, education needed also to be an important part of our agenda. So I look forward to this trip and I'm happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about your meeting with the President of Bolivia? Do you have any indication that, thus far, that he's changing some of the policies and that he seemed to be pointed to, like the legalization of coca?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm looking forward to having an opportunity to meet with Mr. Morales -- President Morales. We want to have a good relationship with Bolivia. We have had a good relationship with Bolivia and we want to maintain it. We have very strong cooperation in counterterrorism. We've had cooperation on the counter-drug problem. President Morales has said that he is also concerned about the security issues associated with the drug trade, and so I think that gives us a starting point for discussion. And he's also talked about the importance of trade and economic development.

He obviously represents the rise of someone who comes from modest means, an indigenous population that is increasingly represented in the heads of government in Latin America and I think that's a very good thing. And so I think it's a great opportunity to do this and I'm glad we're both going to be there so that we can.

QUESTION: I'm going to go slightly off topic and ask you about the fallout from yesterday's announcement on the ports deal. Are you concerned at all about what this says to U.S. allies, particularly friendly nations in the Middle East about the potential political cost of doing business with the United States?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, I think we are all very grateful that the Government of UAE has taken this statesman-like step. The statement recognized the importance of the relationship with the United States which is a strong and excellent relationship and we're going to do everything that we can to continue to strengthen and move that relationship forward. You know that I was just in the UAE last week, and I think you'll see that that is just emblematic of just how much respect we have for the extraordinary relationship that we have with UAE and really with the moderate course that the UAE is taking in its own development and as a moderate force in the region.

Of course, I think you have to be concerned about the perception and the message that this might send. It means that we are going to have to work and double our efforts to send a strong message that we value our allies, our moderate allies, in the Middle East, that they are critical in the effort to winning the war on terrorism, that this is a long-term struggle in which we all find ourselves. And there will be times when things happen. But I have to say that, of course, I'm concerned, but we'll have to get out and make sure that people understand that this is an ally that we fully respect and that the United States values its friends, its moderate friends in the Middle East who stood with us.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, as you know, President-elect Bachelet was a victim of the military junta -- her family was a victim of the junta in Chile. And I'm wondering if you'll express any regret about America's relationship with that junta or any -- on a personal level or on a public level while you're on this visit?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think it's good to remember that it's now been almost 20 years that the United States has been a friend and supporter of Chilean democracy. We actually helped in the transition to democracy in Chile and we've had strong democratic relations ever since. I think it's also well to note that over this period of time the United States has been transparent and has tried to help with the release of documents and so forth as the Chileans have gone forward to deal with their own past. I think that that past is now behind us.

But obviously, the election of President Bachelet, who of course has -- Bachelet who has not just in her own life but of course in the tragedy in her family is really emblematic of -- a kind of symbol of what the Chilean people have gone through to get to this place of democracy. It's a story of tragedy and then of triumph. It is, by the way, a story that at some point in time, most democracies go through if they are fortunate to come out on the other side, as Chile has. It's very often because there have people who have had to struggle and who have suffered tragedy in order to make that possible. And I think that that is an important message that the United States understands that this journey for Chile was a difficult one, but it's been now quite a long time since -- I hope we've been able to put that history behind us.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, in Russia today, the Minister Lavrov, asked additional talks about Iran with the EU-3, China and Europe before going to visit Security Council? Would you agree with that?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm always happy to meet with my colleagues, but I think we know what we need to do with now. We had an agreement in London that after the March 6th board meeting, which has just concluded, if there was not movement by Iran on the requirements of the February 4th resolution that we would take this up in the Security Council and I think it's time that we take it up in the Security Council. But I'm quite certain that there are going to be more meetings of the "P-5+1" and we've had some very productive meetings of that group and I'm certain that we will do it again. But I think what is ahead of now is pretty clear and that is that the Security Council needs to be able to take this up. And after all, I would just note, I've just had very productive discussions with Minister Lavrov in Washington.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

SECRETARY RICE: I've been busy this morning trying to get off on my trip.

QUESTION: The AU is wanting to have an extension of its mandate until the end of the year in Sudan in the Darfur region, which would obviously mean -- which would mean that you would not have the need for UN troops, so that's what they would like and it's to give Sudan more time or to convince them to accept UN talks. Do you think that this would be acceptable and do you think that an extended mandate for the AU would help resolve the problem in Sudan or are you going to be pushing for re-hatting of the mission?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I have to get some clarification on precisely what was said. I've just talked to Kofi Annan and I don't -- I won't put words in his mouth, but I don't think that we see the extension of the AU mandate as precluding the beginning of a UN mission. They have to recognize it's going to take a little while to put a UN mission together. But we're going to continue to press for a UN mission because the AU mission, I think, is not sustainable over the long run. So I think we have to get a sense for what precisely the AU mission is looking to do. But there is going to have to be an AU mission there and hopefully one that is enhanced in some way until you can raise the forces for a UN mission. And I don't know what the exact timing of that will be, but I think it's well understood that we believe that a UN mission is going to be a necessity for Darfur.

QUESTION: Good morning. A couple of specific questions on EU talks with reference to aid first with Chile. Do you think you might be talking about the issue of a waiver of the provision barring military aid to countries that are members of the International Criminal Court? And secondly, on Bolivia, what prospects are there in the resuming military aid? What's your assessment of their -- of Morales's policies on cocaine growing?

SECRETARY RICE: First on Bolivia. We want to have a good relationship with the Bolivian armed forces as we have had a good relationship with the Bolivian armed forces. We have a number of initiatives and projects that we're involved in. I think we'll want to continue those. I have to -- you know, we'll have to see. There may be concerns on both sides and I know that people are trying to work through those concerns when they arise. But I'm quite certain that we will be able to work through concerns because it's an important relationship. We'll see how it evolves, Steve. But our view is that we want to and should try to have good relations with the Bolivian armed forces to do the work that we all agree is important in trying to manage the security environment in the Andean region.

As to Chile and the ICC, we do have certain statutory requirements concerning the ICC. I think you're probably aware of, as I testified yesterday that we're looking at the issues concerning those situations in which we may have, in a sense, sort of the same as shooting ourselves in the foot, which is, I guess, what we mean. By having to put off aid to countries with which we have important counterterrorism or counter drug or in some cases, in some of our allies, it's even been cooperation in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. And so I think we just have to look at it. And we're certainly reviewing it and we'll consult with Congress about it. But I think it's important from time that we take a look to make sure that we're not having a negative effect on the relationships that are really important to us from the point of view of getting our security environment -- improving the security environment.

QUESTION: Thank you. Can I go back to Iran briefly? The British Foreign Offfice, sorry, the British Foreign officer said that Iran will have the technology for a bomb in a year. They've just said that earlier. I just wondered whether you feel this means that this crisis has to be resolved definitely one way or another by then. And most certainly, on President Bush's watch not -- you know, the Iranians might well want to play for time and play for time until they can get another president even.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think there's no doubt that we can not allow the Iranians to play for time, which is why we have been more than willing to see the diplomacy continue, but at the point that it became clear that the Iranians were not really interested in an arrangement that the international community could support that it is important now to take this to the Security Council and to the next step where you have options before you in the Security Council that you don't have in the IAEA Board of Governors.

I can't comment on the question of when we think certain technologies will be available to the Iranians, but I think that given that we know that intelligence on these issues is always somewhat vague that we don't want to be in a position where we underestimate Iranian capabilities. And so my view and the U.S. view is that we ought to get the Iranians to move away from this dangerous course that they're on as quickly as possible and that's why I think it's important to get to the Security Council now.

QUESTION: I'd like to ask about North Korea. There was a briefing up in New York about the North Korean illicit activities. North Korea made some requests such as like establishing a new committee to look for the finance activities. And is this something that you can think about it and what is your -- are you satisfied with the results of the briefing?

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Well, you rightly referred to it as a briefing. It was not a negotiation of any kind. And the North Koreans know what their activities are better than we know what their activities are. We know about some of them. I'm sure that if there are more, they know about even more. So they should just stop them. I mean, don't counterfeit other people's money. You don't engage in illicit trade. And North Korea should just undertake to do that. We were more than willing to go and say the basis on which we have instituted the defensive measures that we've instituted, but I don't think we need long discussions of how to get to a position where those defensive measures are no longer needed. They won't be needed when the North Koreans are no longer engaged in illicit activities.

2006/T8-1

Released on March 10, 2006

ENDS


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