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Condoleezza Rice Interview With Richard Engel, NBC

Interview With Richard Engel, NBC

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Baghdad, Iraq
April 26, 2006

QUESTION: When there was previous governments, we've had Allawi and we've had Jafari, there was the governing councils. Each time it's been sold as a major benchmark. What is it about Maliki that convinces you that this could be a turning point? What about his character makes you optimistic?

SECRETARY RICE: For the first time Iraq has now a permanent government, a four-year government, not a government that is interim anything, a government who's responsibility it is really to govern. And I think the interim government and the governing council all served Iraq very well in their own context, but they were all leading up to this moment. And it is also true that this is an Iraqi Government for which more than 11 million Iraqis voted, including Sunnis, in large numbers. And so this is a government that really has a claim to the name "national unity."

In our meetings with the prime minister-designate, he was someone who emphasized the importance of national unity, emphasized the importance of gaining the trust of all Iraqis and emphasized the importance of having ministries that are also ministries of national unity. And so I think the ground is there. Everybody should understand that the violence is not going to stop immediately, that this is a process now of politics, politics never as dramatic as the single election with people with purple fingers. And so this will be a process that will be more difficult to see the breakthroughs. But it is the process that I think now has Iraq on the right roads.

QUESTION: And you think we are now at a breakthrough? You said it's difficult to see the breakthroughs. And why -- what about his character? You said he's -- he saying all the right things. But what about him as a person? Is he a game changer? Can he really change the situation?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, everyone who knows him and has worked with him says that he is someone who is completely and totally candid about his views, about what he thinks is right and what he thinks is wrong, who is going to be a unifier because he's known as somebody who stands on principles.

And the most important thing in difficult times is to stand on principle. And he seemed to me, and I think to Secretary Rumsfeld, as somebody who is principled and focused, but focused on the right things. He didn't start out by talking about this program or that program. He talked about bringing back the trust between Iraqis and their government and that seems to be the right place to start.

QUESTION: I wish we had more time and I understand we do not. So I won't --

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Thanks very much.

QUESTION: -- I won't entirely violate the rules.

Released on April 26, 2006


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