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Rice & Jack Straw: Jim Hancock, BBC Northwest IV

Interview With British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw by Jim Hancock, BBC Northwest

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Blackburn, United Kingdom
March 31, 2006


QUESTION: Madame Secretary, are you surprised by the hostility that has been attracted to your visit?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, I've seen welcoming people, great kids who have been wonderful, people who -- at the plant who have been so wonderful. And so I feel warmly welcomed here.

Of course, there are protesters. I can tell you this isn't the first time I've seen protestors. I'm a university professor. I've seen protestors in the United States. People have a right to voice their differences, but I think it's important to go to places where people may have differences and it's the great strength of democracy that you're able to voice those differences and to voice them peacefully. I'm just glad now that in other parts of the world, including in places like Baghdad and in Kabul, people also there have the right to voice their differences.

QUESTION: Foreign Secretary, you know the level of hostility amongst many of your constituents to the Iraq war. Wasn't it, frankly, provocative to bring here someone who is so prominently involved in the United States at the highest level in relation to this war in Iraq?

FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: No, because I think we've seen on the streets and the factories, here in the school, the strength of the welcome, too. Of course, there are a lot of people who disagreed with the military action, but can I say there was no place in the country where this was harder argued than at the last election here in Blackburn.

The whole issue was: Do we reelect this man (inaudible) MP (inaudible) Foreign Secretary? I was as much involved in the war as Secretary Rice. Let's be clear about that. They reelected me (inaudible) with opposition, so of course, people have a right to protest, as the Secretary has just said. This is a democracy and I celebrate that right, but we also have a right to come here and I think the overall result of this visit will be a strengthening of democracy, but also a real benefit for the whole of the northwest.

QUESTION: Do you think that the Foreign Secretary's reputation will be damaged by your visit here?

(Laughter.)

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I certainly hope not. People have a right to think differently, but I think people also understand that it is a good thing for -- in my case, when I took the Secretary to Birmingham, Alabama, for people to get outside of Washington, D.C. or New York and to go to Birmingham, or to get outside of London and to come to Blackburn. That's important for people who, like me or like Jack, who don't happen to be from places that are so central.

QUESTION: I mean, local elections are coming up and there were problems two years ago. Do you think it will have an impact on that?

FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: I don't think it'll make any difference in the local elections and it's, by the way, (inaudible) parties and visit -- we've been to different parts of the northwest -- Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Labour didn't make any difference whatsoever.

What's important about this visit, as the Secretary has said, is that it's a chance for her to see a real part of Britain, not just the hothouse of London, and for the northwest (inaudible) on the map, around the world, a fantastic opportunity for Blackburn (inaudible).

QUESTION: Now, we hear a lot about the special relationship between Britain and America. Without being indelicate, you do seem to have something special going from -- and this is quite unusual, this sort of partnership you seem to have struck up.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we do have a very special partnership and our countries are extremely close. Our Prime Minister and President are very close and we've been through a lot together since September 11th and the terrible attacks in the United States and, of course, the attacks here in July. So we've been united and we've never felt stronger support for the cause against the people who would kill innocents on a daily basis and from the people of Great Britain and from our friends in the British Government. And so it's a very close relationship.

QUESTION: Any sense that obvious bond that there is between you perhaps doesn't go down very well in some sections of the Labour Party and that you shouldn't be that close to the Americans?

FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: No, I don't -- actually, no is the answer because, look, the United States and the United Kingdom as governments don't always agree, as in the previous administration, between President Clinton and the Labour Party -- or the Conservatives. There will always be issues of policy where there are disagreements. And for sure, people have strong feelings either way. But it's fundamentally in the interest of the United Kingdom that we stay close to the United States. People -- whatever people's feelings about it, the truth is you and I would not be standing here, had the United States not literally come to our rescue in two world wars, and people of our generation and older know that, but our children need to know that too. And this alliance is fundamental, literally, to the freedom of the world.

QUESTION: Now finally, you were appointed. Jack Straw, as he frequently reminds us, has to be reelected at the time in Blackburn and he stands on a soapbox in the center of Blackburn and takes questions from everybody. Do you think that if you run for President of the United States, you might use similar techniques? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we're never going to find out, so -- I don't intend to do that, but I was just saying to Jack that I admire the way he pays attention and tends to his constituency. I find him -- very often when we talk on the weekend, as we often do, because world events don't stop for the weekend -- I'll find him here. So he really takes seriously his responsibilities to the people of his constituency and it's something I greatly admire.

QUESTION: In this high tech age, would you commend the soapbox for the American public?

FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Yeah, I would, because -- it's true in America as well, we (inaudible) in Western countries. With declining turnouts in democracy and elections and strangely, the more global the world seems to become, the more local has to become our politics.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Secretary.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thanks, Secretary.

FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Thank you.

2006/T10-6

# # #

Released on March 31, 2006

ENDS


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