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Condoleezza Rice Interview With ABC's 7:30 Report

Interview With Kerry O'Brien of Australian Broadcasting Company's 7:30 Report

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Sydney, Australia

QUESTION: Dr. Rice, the third anniversary of the Iraq war is just a few days away. It coincides with several things: Iraq still can't form a government of national unity three months after its election; the country faces the real threat of civil war; and President Bush is now America's most unpopular second-term President, it seems because of Iraq. You can celebrate the downfall of Saddam Hussein, and everyone presumably would join in with that, but the rest does seem from the outside to be a quagmire.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think if you look at what the Iraqi people have actually achieved in the last three years, it's quite remarkable. Yes, they are experiencing great difficulty in making their way to democracy. But democracy is never easy. I think we in the United States and probably in Australia, people should be humble about our own path to democracy, which was difficult and had its own false starts and its own mistakes.

But the Iraqis, in a place where for really most of their existence they solved their differences by violence or by repression or by dictatorship, they've now turned to politics to try to do that. And yes, it's hard but they are going to form a government of national unity. They are doing that in the face of those who would try and plunge them into civil war. I don't think it's proper to say that the Iraqis themselves are on the verge of civil war. There are clearly those who would like to stoke the sectarian strife, but they're people like Zarqawi, the terrorist. The Iraqis themselves have voted three times, including ratifying a constitution, and now they're in the process of forming a government. I think they've made a remarkable showing.

QUESTION: General Peter Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said overnight that Iraq was at a crossroad between peace and civil war. And Donald Rumsfeld said at the same time that the Pentagon had begun examining civil war scenarios. That does sound quite serious, doesn't it?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I was actually with Secretary Rumsfeld when he was testifying before Congress and he was asked what would happen in a civil war. And obviously we believe that the Iraqis themselves want to avoid any such thing. This is why I believe their political leaders are working as hard as they can to come to a government of national unity.

There's no doubt that there are those who would try to tear them apart. But every time they've gone to the precipice, every time there has been a major incident like the Samarra bombing, they have tried to come together rather than tearing themselves apart. And that's something to be admired.

Of course, they're at a crossroads. It's a difficult time in Iraq. But I have confidence that the Iraqi patriots are going to triumph here.

QUESTION: This isn't, of course, just difficult for Iraq. It's difficult for the United States and its position, too. And what do you say in that regard to the 67 percent of Americans who have told pollsters that they don't believe the Bush Administration has a plan to resolve the situation in Iraq?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I would ask everyone -- my fellow Americans and our coalition partners -- to recognize that what the Iraqis are trying to do is very difficult, what we're trying to do in the Middle East is very difficult.

But when we look to the Middle East that existed four or five years ago, it wasn't a very stable Middle East either. It was the Middle East, after all, that produced the ideology of hatred that produced the people who flew airplanes into buildings on September 11th, who did the Bali bombing, who kidnapped schoolchildren and killed them in Russia. This is a very tough enemy that we're working against.

We've won these struggles before against ideologies of hatred, but it's always taken time; it's taken patience; unfortunately, it's sometimes taken sacrifice. It's also taken good friends and allies like we have here in Australia. But we've triumphed because we've stayed true to our values. We've triumphed because we have believed in those who were trying to seek freedom's promise. And we've triumphed because we've recognized that there is no alternative than to confront this ideology of hatred and to defeat it.

QUESTION: The last time you and I spoke was on the first anniversary of September 11th and you were adamant on that occasion, as was Vice President Cheney, as was President Bush, as was Donald Rumsfeld, that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. You don't think it has hurt your case over these three years as things, of course, have not gone as well as you would have anticipated back then, that going into Iraq on a false premise has hurt your standing in the process?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think everybody thought Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. I assume that if people didn't think -- and I mean worldwide -- that he had weapons of mass destruction there would not have been the massive effort in the United Nations Security Council over multiple resolutions to get him to tell the truth about his weapons of mass destruction. The world --

QUESTION: It turns out -- he was saying he didn't have any. It turns out that that was one occasion when he seems to have been telling the truth.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the world community didn't believe him and there was reason not to believe him. He had used weapons of mass destruction before against his neighbors. He had used them against his own people. And that he had an appetite for them and I think would have continued to pursue them is unassailable.

But the key here is that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the region, as we had seen in the two wars that he had caused. He was a threat to the region in his continued activities against our forces in the region. And the region is much better off without him.

QUESTION: The President has accused Iran of direct involvement in the bomb attacks in Iraq, so you're now in conflict with Iran on two fronts, their nuclear ambitions being the other. Putting both those elements together, it seems that the situation with Iran could become increasingly explosive. Given your commitment already in Iraq, how limited are your options in trying to contain Iran?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let's remember that the struggle, the conflict with Iran, is not a conflict between the United States and Iran; it is a conflict between the international community and Iran. We are seeing now in the Security Council on the heels of an overwhelming vote of the International Atomic Energy Agency's Board of Governors to report the Iranian case, that people are very concerned that Iran has been under cover of civil nuclear power building a nuclear weapon.

The Iranian regime wants to make this about its rights to civil nuclear power. Nobody is saying that Iran cannot have civil nuclear power. But for 18 years Iran lied to the IAEA. That's why Iran has a problem with the international community. Iran has sponsored terrorists and terrorism around the world. That's why Iran has a problem with the international community. And Iran is out of step in the unelected few who repress the genuine aspirations for democracy of the Iranian people, and that puts them out of step with the international community.

So it's not the United States, but it is the world that Iran must now answer to, including their efforts to make trouble for Iraqis who are trying to make a more peaceful future.

QUESTION: On China, in the limited time we have left. You said, I think, that you don't want China to become a negative force in the region. How do you define the point at which they become a negative force?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, China is a rising power -- there's no doubt about it -- and it'll be influential one way or another. I prefer to think about how they become a positive force. And they become a positive force by being a responsible stakeholder. They become a positive force by playing by the rules in the international economy, by having an intellectual property rights protection, by opening their markets fairly to product from outside, by living up to the rules of the World Trade Organization. They become a positive force by playing I think what they have a positive role in the six-party talks concerning North Korea. They become a positive force by becoming more open, more open toward their own people and religious freedoms and democracy, as well as more open toward the rest of the world, and by being a force for stability.

The United States has excellent relations with China. We have had very good relations since the beginning of this Administration. But we recognize that China is in transition and that we have to, with our friends and allies in the region, help to create conditions in which China will be a positive force.

QUESTION: Last question, briefly. Taiwan. China is Australia's third biggest trading partner and it seems that China's importance to Australia is just going to keep growing. Do you acknowledge that if the worst happens over Taiwan at some point and America decides to go to Taiwan's defense, that it's possible that Australia might opt to sit on the fence? How easily would the U.S. accept that position?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm not very fond of hypotheticals.

QUESTION: I thought you might say that. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, I think that with --

QUESTION: But it is a real situation.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, with Taiwan we have a very clear policy. The United States has a "one China" policy. We based that on three communiqués that were signed with the Chinese. And we also have obligations to help Taiwan defend itself.

But we've been very clear with China and with Taiwan that we don't expect anybody to try to change the status quo unilaterally. From time to time we have had to say to Taiwan that it has engaged in behavior that is problematic for stability. From time to time we've had to say to China don't threaten with missile batteries that look as if they're aimed at Taiwan.

But I think that most would tell you that the United States has been a kind of upright anchor in this policy. We've kept to our principles but we've also recognized our responsibility to help the Chinese and Taiwan avoid any conflict, which would be in no one's interest -- China, Taiwan or the region.

QUESTION: Condoleezza Rice, thanks very much for talking with us.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. It was good to be with you. 2006/T8-9

Released on March 16, 2006


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