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Rice Interview With Courtney Kealy of Fox News

Interview With Courtney Kealy of Fox News

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Baghdad, Iraq
April 2, 2006

QUESTION: The first question: What's the urgency? Why now for this visit?

SECRETARY RICE: It's time for the Iraqis to end the negotiations that have been underway and to form a government of national unity. The Iraqi people have become impatient. They feel vulnerable to violence should there continue to be a political vacuum. And frankly, the international community wants to see this done and so Jack Straw and I thought it was time to come and deliver that message on behalf of the two largest contributors here, the United States and the United Kingdom.

QUESTION: Is Jafari preventing the formation of a unity government?

SECRETARY RICE: They do need to get a prime minister and they need to get a prime minister who can unify the country, who will put in place a competent, nonsectarian government. It's going to be Iraq's choice and the Iraqis' choice who that person is and the United States will support that choice.

But there are two parts to the process. One is that you select the person that is nominated by the largest bloc. That's what the United Iraqi Alliance did in selecting Mr. Jafari. But then it's important that that person be able to form a government and that's why that's not been -- he's not been able to do that, but we'll support whatever choice. But there does need to be a prime minister who can form that unity government and form it very soon.

QUESTION: Now we're getting to the point where there's a lawlessness, chaos and daily violence among Iraqis. Their lowest death rate among the soldiers in March in the last two years. The death rate among Iraqis in the last six weeks has soared . Death squads, militias, general lawlessness and criminals. Who's to blame for this chaos right now?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, clearly the people who are doing this are. The people who are killing innocent people are to blame for killing innocent people. The security situation is different than it was some time ago and of course people are concerned about the rise of crime and the rise of militias. But the way to address that is to get a government that can then get a strong minister of defense, a strong minister of interior, that can support the very substantial efforts that we and others are making to train the army, to train the police, so that there are capable national forces that on a nonsectarian basis can deal with the problems that the Iraqis are facing.

QUESTION: The general lawlessness and sectarian violence is clearly coming out of people and cities with commando uniforms. Iraqis on the street are more trusting of the Iraqi soldiers, the army with US backup. And this has really shifted. I've seen soldiers work. I've seen the Iraqi soldiers work. And people are telling me of neighborhoods that won't let these come in were forming their own militias. That's now extreme it's getting. Is there anything besides the formation of a unity government that can stop some of this outrageous violence that's happening right now?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, one of the things that is happening is that we've taken a very hard look at the way that police training is taking place. Police training is hard because people come from the locality and they are therefore subject to the pressures of the locality. It's actually true across the world. And so we've taken a hard look at the police training. It has been revamped. We need a strong ministry of interior that will enforce nonsectarianism in the police.

But the point about the army is a very well taken one. The army has become a truly national institution. People do trust the army. And as the army is built up, that will be an important security element for people. But the reason that a government is so important is that it can enforce on through the ministry of interior rules and regulations that give the population confidence that sectarianism is not going to be tolerated.

QUESTION: And last question. Do you see somebody else being -- do you see Jafari being replaced in the next couple of days with the Shiite coalition now saying public statements about him?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's not for us to say. It is for the Iraqis to make that decision. The point that we came here to make is that it's not for us to choose the prime minister but it is our obligation and indeed our right, given all that we are doing here, to say that we have to have a prime minister. And so we've been pressing that they find an answer to the question who can form a government of national unity and find the answer to that question very quickly.

QUESTION: And also the very sensitive issue of who's going to lead the ministry of interior.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the ministry of interior is a critical post because it is the post that oversees the police. Most of the problems have been with the police, not with the army, which is overseen by the ministry of defense. And it's the police who are closest to people's lives, the police who have to provide the protection from crime, the police who should be the answer to the formation of the militias. So it is an absolutely critically important post. But the prime minister needs to be found who can form this national unity government, who can govern constructively and in a nonsectarian basis, and then that prime minister is going to have to appoint government officials and ministers who hold the same principles.

QUESTION: How can we expedite this process, though? It seems like critical timing right now.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, its' very critical timing and that's one reason that Jack Straw and I are here, not to try to form a government tomorrow. We're not going to leave with a government in hand. That's not our responsibility. But to bring to the Iraqis the sense of urgency that is felt in the international community. It's felt in Great Britain. It's felt in the United States. But it's felt in many other countries around the world too and most especially it's felt by the Iraqis themselves.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.


Released on April 2, 2006


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