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Condoleezza Rice Interview by Jon Karl of ABC News

Interview by Jon Karl of ABC News


Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Stellarton NS, Canada
September 12, 2006


QUESTION: Madame Secretary, in light of the bombing, the attack on our Embassy in Damascus today, are you confident in the ability and even the willingness of the Syrian security forces to protect our Embassy?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I will say that the Syrian security forces reacted and reacted very quickly to the attack and certainly reacted in a way that helped to secure our Embassy from everything that we understand. Unfortunately, these attacks take place despite the fact that we do everything that we can to secure our embassies and unfortunately, this one was not successful. I do know that some security personnel were killed and we have sent condolences to their families. But we will have to obviously, Jon, figure out what happened here and do the analysis of who might have been responsible, but we appreciate the response of the forces.

QUESTION: But is it difficult to rely on a security service that you have been so critical of and, I mean, we have such serious issues with, to protect American interests?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we expect that the Syrians are still going to carry out their international responsibilities to protect embassies, even if we have very deep differences between the governments because we do have diplomatic relations with Syria. We do maintain an embassy there. And there's an obligation then on the part of Syria to protect that embassy and we expect them to take it seriously and in this case the early evidence is that they did.

QUESTION: I want to ask you about Sudan because since the United States declared what was going on in Darfur a genocide the situation has gotten significantly worse and there are signs now, including massing of Sudanese troops in Darfur, renewed aerial attacks and warnings that this situation could rise to the level of Rwanda-scale killings. What is the United States going to do about this?

SECRETARY RICE: The United States has led the effort to get a UN Security Council resolution that will authorize a force, an international force, to go in and to do what the Government of Sudan has not been willing and/or able to do. I met with the Foreign Minister of Sudan just yesterday and I told him in no uncertain terms that it is time for Sudan to accept that there needs to be an international force that can protect civilians, protect international aid workers. We worked to get a peace agreement. The United States was very active in getting that done. But the answer now is to get a robust security force in that can protect. The international community talks all the time, Jon, about the responsibility to protect. It's time to exercise the responsibility to protect. And so we need those states in the international community, the African Union, members of the Security Council to do what we all know that we must do which is to insist that an international force go into Sudan.

QUESTION: But Sudan has refused that force and is even threatening to kick out the few peacekeepers that are there. So what do we do in light of that refusal?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, of course, the Security Council has on the books sanctions that can be taken against members of the Sudanese Government. Some sanctions have already been levied. The Sudanese say that they want good relations with the rest of the world. Well, if they want good relations, then they're going to have to act in a responsible way. And frankly right now they're not acting in a responsible way. And it's time for the international community to insist that Sudan act in a responsible way or to use whatever leverage it has to compel Sudan to act in a responsible way.

QUESTION: Moving to Iran, there was some indication that perhaps Iran is offering a temporary suspension of its uranium enrichment to engage in talks. Would you be satisfied in the idea of a temporary suspension? Would you be willing to sit down with the Iranians if they'd make this move?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't know what temporary means in this context. I do know that what Iran has been told through first the International Atomic Energy Agency and now through the Security Council is suspend; suspend your activities and then negotiations can begin. So we're going to stay focused on Iran's obligation to suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities. Negotiation would be a very good thing. That's what we've wanted. But Iran has to verifiably suspend its activities in order to have those negotiations take place.

QUESTION: So if they're serious about this offer, though, we could be on the verge of the first talks between the United States and Iran about this mission?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, Jon, let's not get the cart before the horse here. Let's -- the Iranians have talked in great terms before and not delivered. So let's see if they are indeed willing to suspend. Let me be very clear. The world says that as of August 31st, if Iran was not prepared to suspend then we would go the Security Council track. That's the track we're on now. We're having discussions about what kinds of sanctions would make sense under a Chapter 7 resolution. We are going to continue to have those consultations. I expect that the P-5+1 ministers would probably meet in New York on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly. And so we are going to continue down that track. We have always left open that if Iran wishes to suspend and take the track of negotiation, then that path is open. But at this point, Iran has not done that and we're going to continue on the path toward sanctions.

QUESTION: Were you personally involved in the decision to grant a visa to the former Iranian President Khatami?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. I was, absolutely, and I think it was the right thing to do.

QUESTION: Why?

SECRETARY RICE: Because sometimes it's important to let people speak and to hear voices. We wanted those voices to be heard here in the United States, but also in Iran. This is someone -- and let me be very clear -- the Government of Khatami was not a government with which the United States could deal either. It was a government that persecuted political prisoners and a number of problems with that government. But it is important if there are multiple forces in Iran, if there are shades of difference in Iran that the United States have an opportunity to hear that, people in the United States have an opportunity to hear that and that perhaps that plays back in Iran. I think the openness and the dialogue is good. It shows that the United States is not afraid to have those ideas. He's not a serving member of the Iranian Government at this time.

And frankly, Jonathan, I would hope that there would be lots of Iranians who could come to the United States. I would like to see Iranian students and Iranian musicians and Iranian footballers come to the United States because we don't have a problem with the Iranian people, we have a problem with the Iranian regime. And the Iranian people are a great people. They are a people that should be respected and we would like to have more dialogue and exchange with the Iranian people.

QUESTION: Okay. And one last quick question. There have been intelligence -- there's been indications that North Korea may be preparing for a nuclear test. What are you doing? What's the United States doing to try to dissuade them from doing that and what will the price -- what price will they pay if they go forward with a nuclear test?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we certainly are in consultations with all the affected states. We have North Korea under a very strong resolution that was in response to their missile test back in the summer. There are a number of steps that can be taken as a part of that resolution and there are further steps that might be necessary if North Korea continues the provocations that it has engaged in. But every time North Korea does something like this, it deepens its own isolation. I believe even the North Koreans were surprised at a 15-0 resolution that brought obligations on the international community to cut off North Korea from these kinds of activities and we'll continue down that path, if necessary.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you for your time.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much, Jon.

2006/T21-7

Released on September 12, 2006


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