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Rice Interview With Libby Leist of NBC

Interview With Libby Leist of NBC

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Baghdad, Iraq
April 2, 2006

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I'm going to start where probably some of my other colleagues have started, your meeting with Prime Minister Jafari today. What did you say to him and were you here to deliver a message from President Bush that he step down and allow the Iraqis to form a new government?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we're sending a message to all of the leaders who are involved in this process, the same message. Everyone needs to do what he needs to do, each and every person needs to figure out what's necessary and they need to do that to get a government of national unity as quickly as possible.

It is urgent that they wrap up the negotiations and get a prime minister who can form a government of national unity that will be nonsectarian and constructive in resolving the very difficult challenges that the Iraqi people now have. The urgency comes not only from the international community by any means, but really from the Iraqi people who are feeling vulnerable to a political vacuum, and it needs to get resolved.

QUESTION: What did you take away from the meetings? Did you see any progress, any conclusions that you can make?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I see a seriousness of purpose and one of the things that we have to understand is that there not, as I've heard some people describe it, dickering about who gets what post. That's not really what they've been doing. They have been filling out the process by which they will actually govern. They have been laying down ground rules for governance. They've been coming up with a program. These are the things that you always have to do in coalition formation when you're bringing together multiple parties to try to govern because if you don't have a sound program and governing rules, then when you do have a prime minister, that prime minister won't be able to govern.

So by no means should we suggest that they have been wasting this time. They have been using it very well. But it's now time to bring the process to a conclusion. It's now time to find a prime minister, whoever that person is, to bring this government into being and to get on with solving the problems of the Iraqi people.

QUESTION: Are you worried at all about sending a signal? You've arrived here with Secretary Straw to sort of push through a government. Are you worried at all it's sending a signal that this looks like the U.S. is imposing its will on the Iraqis and saying, well, here's the government we think you should have?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we've been very clear that we're not going to pick the people in this government. That's for the Iraqis to do. We only have several principles that we are pressing very hard; first of all, that it needs to be a government of national unity. That means all Iraqis need to be involved because you can't run a country this diverse with a sectarian approach.

Secondly, that it needs to be a government that is going to be competent and that is really going to be able to be a good partner with all of us who are trying to resolve the problem of the Iraqi people.

And third, that it needs to be formed quickly. And so we're not trying to pick winners and losers here or try to pick the governing -- the government itself, but it is important that the Iraqis know that their own people really want them to form a government but so do their international partners.

QUESTION: Let me ask you about, you know, whether or not this is a message to the American people, your trip here. How much is this effort by you an attempt to send a political message to citizens at home that America really wants Iraq to come up with a government so we can eventually get out of here.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the President has been sending that signal. I've been sending that signal. I didn't have to come here to send a signal that we believe there needs to be a government. Of course the American people want to see a government formed. They want to see progress. And there has been progress, but they need to make more rapid progress.

But really, Iraq needs to be governed. They cannot continue to have a political vacuum against the backdrop of violence. They need a government that can appoint a good minister of defense, a good minister of the interior, who can oversee the security forces that are going to have to bring peace and security to Iraqis. They need to make certain that ministries that oversee oil and the electricity and finance, the kind of cornerstones of the economy, are appointed and are competent.

And so this is really more about Iraq than about the United States, but of course the American people do want to see this move forward. The President wants to see this move forward and that I am here also because the President wants to see this moved forward.

QUESTION: Let me just finally ask you, what are your impressions of Baghdad? You flew in today and actually rode on one of the most notoriously dangerous roads in Iraq. And you know, you come to the Green Zone which is still heavily fortified and sort of has the air of occupation still. What are your impressions of Baghdad right now since your last trip?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, when you look around, you realize that this is really a great Arab city. It's a beautiful city and it's not just an Arab city. It's a city where different ethnic cultures come together. You can see it when you go to different parts of the country.

It's a city that still has its security challenges. There's no doubt about that. And those security challenges are only going to get resolved when Iraqis are really capable of providing their own security. And so yes, I do look forward to the day when I can travel anywhere in Baghdad completely freely. That day is going to come. But it's going to come because Iraqis have taken responsibility for their security, Iraqis have taken responsibility for their governance and Iraqis have taken responsibility for forming a democratic Iraq that can be there for all Iraqi people. That's why when I'm here I do feel very hopeful about the process because I see the Iraqis and how hard they're working at it. I see a Sunni leadership that is so much better developed than even when I was here in November, really now capable of representing the interests of the Sunnis. That says to me that those who have been a part of the insurgency will have no political base on which to draw. And so there are also very many hopeful signs when you are here in Iraq that are a stark contrast really to the extraordinary security measures that are still necessary.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Madame Secretary.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. 2006/T10-19

Released on April 2, 2006


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