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Condoleezza Rice IV ABC's Good Morning America

Interview With Robin Roberts of ABC's Good Morning America

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
New York City
September 19, 2006

QUESTION: I know you have a busy day ahead of you.

SECRETARY RICE: I do indeed.

QUESTION: I have a lot of topics we want to get to, but first I want to start with the perception of America around the world. A recent survey in the respected Pew organization found that America's global image has slipped in the past year. So what can the President say and do today to win back some of that international support?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, Robin, we've had to do some difficult things. We've had to make clear that the war on terrorism has to be fought and it has to be fought on the offense. But in that process we've liberated 55 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq. The President is the first President to call as a matter of policy for a Palestinian state. And so our policies have to be, I think, better understood; we are trying to get the word out. The President will make a speech today that is about a hopeful Middle East in which people are free and have liberty and prosperity.

But I also find that while people may not always agree with our policies, they really love the United States. If you look at the number of people who want to come here to study, to visit, people who want to emigrate here, this is still a real beacon of hope in the world.

QUESTION: True, but when you have the Secretary General of the United Nations going over to Iraq -- Kofi Annan -- and he comes back and says the great risk of all out civil war, this is the head of the United Nations saying this. Is he right?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I was just with Iraqi leaders yesterday. We had an international meeting for support for Iraq. And the President of Iraq, the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, were not there to talk about the war. They were there to talk about their plans for a unified Iraq where Kurds and Shia and Sunni can live together. They were there to talk about their plans to rebuild Iraq into a great society.

Iraq is a country that was ruled by a brutal dictator, someone who really snuffed out any hope in that country. That was a country in which differences were dealt with by violence or by repression. But it is always worth it and I think the Iraqi people will emerge strong and they will emerge united. But it's going to be difficult. There's no doubt about that.

QUESTION: Let's move on from Iraq to Iran because today President Bush, of course, is addressing the UN and the President of Iran will also be there, Ahmedi-Nejad. And so people are saying, "Will they run into them – into each other in the hall? Will they have a possible meeting?" There's no chance that these two men will sit down and come to some sort of understanding about Iran's nuclear ambitions?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the Iranians --

QUESTION: For instance --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the Iranians have a good chance to do that if they will just do what the international community has asked them to do. That's to suspend their enrichment and reprocessing activities. And the reason that's important, Robin, is that's practicing to learn the technologies that will allow you to build a nuclear weapon and so they have to be denied those technologies.

We have said that if Iran is prepared to suspend that, we are prepared for the first time in decades to sit down across the table from the Iranians and talk about ending their nuclear ambitions and providing a path for Iran's entry into the international system. I would meet anywhere with my counterpart at any time once Iran has suspended its enrichment and reprocessing activities.

QUESTION: But until that time?

SECRETARY RICE: Until that time, Iran is in violation of a Security Council mandatory requirement that it suspend these activities.

QUESTION: Your predecessor, Colin Powell – I know you're very good friends still to this time – he's of course sent a letter to Senate Republicans recently and asking them – he would wish that they would defy the President's wishes for the treatment of detainees who are possible terrorists. In today's Washington Post, Colin Powell kind of explained why he said that. He said, "Whether we believe it or not, people are now starting to question whether we" – Americans – "are following our own high standards. And he says that's also with Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo as well. How do you react to a statement like that?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I've been out there. I represent the United States. I was out there a year ago when there were so many stories about detainee treatment. Something like Abu Ghraib can simply not be explained away. It was a terrible stain. But democracies make mistakes; they then deal with them. The people who were involved in Abu Ghraib have been punished. Guantanamo is a place where dangerous people are kept so that they can't go back on the battlefield and kill innocent people.

So what the President is saying that within our laws and within our treaty obligations, fully within our treaty obligations, we need to have every legal means to interrogate the highest ranking terrorists.

QUESTION: But this is your predecessor, former Secretary Colin --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, Colin and I are very good friends, but I just disagree with him.

QUESTION: A final subject that I want to talk to you about, Muslims and how outraged they are for the Pope's remarks recently about violence and Islam. And the Pope did apologize for the reaction, didn't apologize necessary for his words but the reaction of his words. And Muslims say that's not enough. What do you say?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the Pope has regretted this and I think the Pope is someone who is known for his love of humanity. He's known for his desire to have a tolerant world. Look, we all need better understanding. We all need to understand that offense can sometimes be taken when perhaps we don't see it.

But I would hope that all religions are willing to step back and to see our common humanity.

QUESTION: Well, Madame Secretary, as always, I know you have a lot on your plate today, and thank you very much for sharing a portion of your morning with us. We do appreciate it.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much.


Released on September 19, 2006


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