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Rice IV With Matt Lauer of NBC's Today Show

Interview With Matt Lauer of NBC's Today Show

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
New York City
September 19, 2006

QUESTION: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be inside the chamber when the President makes his speech at the UN this morning. Madame Secretary, it's always good to have you here in our studio.

SECRETARY RICE: Good to be with you, Matt.

QUESTION: Nice to see you. They're calling it the showdown between President Bush and President Ahmadi-Nejad of Iran. They'll give dueling speeches. If, Madame Secretary, Iran poses a policy challenge for the United States over the next several months, even the next several years, why shouldn't these guys meet face to face while they're here in New York?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the fact is, Matt, that the Iranians have a chance to meet face to face with the United States concerning the nuclear issue. All that they have to do is to adhere to what the UN Security Council has said: Suspend the enrichment activities in which you engage. I'll meet my counterpart anywhere, anytime when Iran has verifiably done that.

QUESTION: But France has said that the Iranians should not have to suspend their nuclear activities to enter into talks. You've got Russia and Germany and China saying sanctions, for example, from the United Nations would be counterproductive. It seems to me a little bit like the boxing --

SECRETARY RICE: No, no, wait a minute, Matt.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

SECRETARY RICE: It's not quite that simple. The UN Security Council said that as of August 31st, Iran should mandatorily suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities. That was a 15-0 vote. The six parties that have been dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue have said that Iran will do that, we are willing and ready to enter into negotiations with a quite very, very good package for Iran should they do so.

But if they don't, then we should press through another path. And in fact, we are, with our partners, talking about what kinds of sanctions would work. We want diplomacy to work too.

QUESTION: Do you think there will be sanctions? When you were here on May 10th, you said you were confident that there would be Security Council action against Iran. Here we are in September; nothing's happened yet.

SECRETARY RICE: But there was Security Council action in July on Iran when the Security Council --

QUESTION: Making a deadline.

SECRETARY RICE: -- when the Security Council resolution was passed. And that resolution laid out a very clear path for the Iranians to suspend, get into negotiations, or face further Security Council action.

Matt, I am quite certain that the international community is not going to allow its credibility to decline because it does not live up to its word.

QUESTION: So you're convinced you can get France, Russia, China, Germany on board to deliver sanctions if the Iranians do not meet the requirements set forth by the Security Council?

SECRETARY RICE: I am quite confident that none of these states want Iran to have a nuclear weapon and that they understand that unless the international community is credible in what it has said before, we will have real dangers ahead.

QUESTION: Let's talk about the interrogation of terror suspects. It's been a very hot topic in Washington and around the country and around the world as of late. The President wants Congress to clarify Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which deals with outrages against personal dignity. Are you convinced that a deal can be struck? There's been great opposition from Republican senators. Even your predecessor at the State Department, Colin Powell, has said, "Do not do this." What's the deal that's going to be reached?

SECRETARY RICE: I do believe that the President and the Congress can work together to get a law that, first of all, allows us to get the information that we need legally and within our treaty obligations to protect the American people and to protect people abroad. Nobody wants us to give up the methods and the program that has produced information that has stopped attacks on the United States and abroad.

Secondly, we can do this in a way that gives to the professionals, the people who have to interrogate, clarity on what is legal and what is not.

QUESTION: But I was at the White House with the President --

SECRETARY RICE: We don't want them to have to live with a lack of clarity.

QUESTION: At the President – I mean, at the White House, I asked the President about these alternative methods of questioning that were used at these secret CIA sites on people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The President says they have yielded results, as you've just said that. And I asked him, if they were legal, why couldn't these techniques have been used in the United States or at a place like Guantanamo Bay?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the President made very clear that our personnel abroad could not do things that they could not do at home, so there wasn't any division there. But Matt, I think you would understand that sometimes it's better that people not know where Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is being held, particularly given some of the friends that he has.

We want a program that is legal, a program that is within our treaty obligations, and a program -- a law that gives our professionals the clarity that they need about what are clearly very unclear words like "outrages on human dignity."

QUESTION: Why are we the only one of the 194 signatories to the Geneva Conventions who are looking to clarify this Article?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I suppose, Matt, it's because of our very special responsibilities in the war on terror to stop attacks against innocent civilians.

QUESTION: But other nations face terrorism as well.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, but we are the ones who experienced September 11th. We are the ones who, with our allies, found Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi Bin Al Shibh. And because of the way that we have gone about this in a legal, treaty-compliant way, the United States of America has produced information that has prevented attacks on innocent people.

QUESTION: I would agree with you that we're the country that experienced 9/11, but the British experienced the London bombings and the Spaniards experienced the Madrid bombings and yet, are they signing on for this clarification of Article 3?

SECRETARY RICE: Well – and the United States has, through its programs, also passed information to countries abroad that have prevented attacks on their innocent civilians.

The fact is, Matt, we can do this in a way, with Congress, that respects our treaty obligations, that defines those obligations through American law, through the American Constitution, both very well-respected abroad. I have no problem defending abroad this proposition.

QUESTION: Let me go back to what your predecessor, Colin Powell, said. Here's a decorated military man, former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He's the guy who made the case at the United Nations for the war on Iraq. And he says that now the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism.

And here we are, five years after 9/11 -- remember 9/11, the world embraced us -- and now, he says the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. What happened?

SECRETARY RICE: Colin Powell is a good friend; I just simply disagree. The moral basis of the American war against terrorism, the world's war against terrorism is that these are people who have an ideology of hatred so virulent that they go out to kill innocent civilians. They bomb people at a subway stop. They bomb people in the twin towers. They go after Russian children in Beslan.

The moral basis for the war on terror is that we stand for the protection of innocent life, for liberty, for freedom for people, and they stand for a dark world in which innocent people's lives are wantonly taken on behalf of a "religion," a perversion of a great religion like Islam. There is no moral equivalence here, and I don't think anybody is confused by this.

QUESTION: We're starting to hear in Iraq people, military leaders and others, who worry about full-scale civil war there, and I'm just curious about definitions here. Why isn't Iraq already in a civil war based on what's happening there?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, because Iraqis have not given up on national unity, because the Sunni and Shia and Kurds are working together for a national unity government. You have a few people who are inciting and who are doing violent things to try to sow division and to exploit divisions that have been there a long, long time. These are people in Iraq who dealt with their differences through violence and through repression. Now they're trying to deal with those differences through politics, and it's hard.

But I sat with Iraqi leaders yesterday in that very meeting out of which Kofi Annan is quoted. I sat with community leaders from the entire international community who talked about a more hopeful Iraq, about Iraq's plans for reforming its economy, for dealing with its oil revenues, for dealing with its security situation. And those Iraqi leaders who at great sacrifice – and by the way, the Iraqi people at great sacrifice – are continuing to pursue an Iraq that will be a different kind of Iraq, and a different kind of Middle East, don't talk about civil war. They talk about their hope for an Iraq that will be unified, peaceful, and free.

QUESTION: Busy week at the United Nations this week, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be right in the middle of it. Again, it's always good to have you here in the studio.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you, it's a pleasure.

QUESTION: Thanks for coming in.


Released on September 19, 2006


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