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Rice Interview With David Kerley of ABC News

Interview With David Kerley of ABC News

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Baghdad, Iraq
April 2, 2006

QUESTION: On the plane you said that the message you would deliver to Iraqi leaders would be the same. Mr. Jafari did not look happy. Did you tell him anything differently? Did you tell him he needs to step aside for this government to form?

SECRETARY RICE: We told the Prime Minister much the same that we've told everybody, which is that everybody has a responsibility now to do whatever they can to get a unity government quickly. The Iraqi people deserve one and need one because there is a vacuum and vacuums are not good in politics.

We told them that they needed to find a government that was strong, that could provide leadership, nonsectarian leadership, but that it's an Iraqi choice and America will support that choice.

QUESTION: You came with Mr. Straw and that's a pretty large hammer to have, the two leading Foreign Minister and Secretary of State in the country and delivering this message. What is the stick? What is the threat?

SECRETARY RICE: Everyone wants the Iraqis to succeed and we are talking with them as allies, as countries, representatives of the countries that have shed blood and are paying a lot of the finance here to build a stable Iraq, but we wouldn't be doing it if we didn't think it was in the interest of the United States, and in the case of Great Britain, Jack from Great Britain, if we didn't think it was in the interest of our countries to have a stable Iraq. So we're going to work with the Iraqis.

I saw in the meetings that I had today a strong sense that they know that they need a government of national unity, that they understand that the Iraqi people are somewhat impatient, that they understand that the international community is watching them. And so I think that's what we're -- that's the message we're delivering.

QUESTION: But you have been delivering that message, so what do you bring to the table this time? What do you say? What is the stick? What is the threat?

SECRETARY RICE: You don't have to have a threat. What you have to have is commitment. And we've said to the Iraqis that the United States is committed, Great Britain is committed. But that commitment brings with it an expectation that Iraqi leaders are going to do everything that they can to fulfill their part of the bargain.

QUESTION: But they've been for now several months dickering --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let's talk about what they've been doing for the last couple of months. It took a while to resolve some outstanding issues from the election, so though the election was held in December it was almost two months before the election results were final. That's, by the way, something that we understand in the United States from a not too far in the distant election in the United States.

They then, of course, have been engaged in discussions not just on who's going to hold what position. I know and I've heard they're just trying to divide up the spoils and that's what's taking so long. But they've been working to refine elements of their constitution that tell them that they need ways to govern, so putting in place structures for governance, putting in place a program for governance. This is something that should be familiar to any country in which there is coalition formation because you can't form a coalition of national unity without a program and they have put together a very good program.

QUESTION: But those who are in the minority, it does not serve their purposes to form a government. It makes more sense to continue on this path, doesn't it?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I didn't get that sense from anyone. I do believe that they understand that they need to form a government. These are responsible people. They've behaved responsibly every time there's been a challenge to them and they know that the responsible thing to do is to form a government. But it's hard. These communities, these various communities -- Shia and Kurd and Shia and others -- and Sunni and others -- have gone through centuries in which they resolved their differences either by repression or by violence. And --

QUESTION: But not as recently -- as quickly as the U.S. does, right?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, now they're asking to -- they're being asked to do this by politics and compromise. It's hard. But as hard as it is, the message that we're sending is it's time to finish the negotiations and get it done.

QUESTION: And what are you telling them. How long should that take?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we haven't set a deadline and we're not going to set a deadline. But obviously there is considerable urgency here and it has gone on now for a while. They're going to have to make some decisions about how to move forward and how to get the kind of leadership that is really going to be able to give strength and direction to this Iraqi government.

QUESTION: In less time than they've already taken?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I won't say less time. It wouldn't matter if it was less time than they had already taken. The fact of the matter is they are where they are. What they do need to do, though, is really very quickly here form this government, and once they form the government, they still have a lot of work ahead of them.

QUESTION: I think we're at our five minutes.

SECRETARY RICE: Great. All right, thank you very much.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Secretary.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. Thank you. A pleasure. 2006/T10-15

Released on April 2, 2006


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