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Rice Briefing En Route London, United Kingdom


Briefing En Route London, United Kingdom


Secretary Condoleezza Rice
En Route London, United Kingdom
October 6, 2006


SECRETARY RICE: I'll be happy to take a few questions. Let me just say first that the meetings, I think, with Mr. Barzani were very good meetings. We had a chance to talk about some of the issues of national reconciliation, including obviously the hydrocarbons law and federalism issues. I always find him a very interesting and good interlocutor, and he is someone who is involved in the Iraqi political circles but from a different perspective obviously from the Kurdish regions. So they were very good meetings and I think very well worth doing.

And now we'll go off to London for a somewhat truncated version of the P-5+1. I think I mentioned to you the other day that there were some logistical problems. Unfortunately, Minister Lavrov and I were only going to overlap for a very short time and that's what the logistical issue was, and that the Chinese might have difficulty getting there at all. So I think what we'll do is we'll hear a report of Javier Solana and we undoubtedly will continue the discussion, probably sometime early next week. But I think it will be good to start the discussion as soon as I can get there.

Questions?

QUESTION: When you're actually able to finish the discussions next week, do you expect at that point to be able to essentially close the deal and say we're now going to the Security Council?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we've said all along that Resolution 1696 is clear in the direction that it points, that when the Iranians refused to suspend enrichment and reprocessing -- in other words, when a diplomatic course is not going to produce an outcome -- then the other path has to be pursued. And I'm going to wait to hear from Javier Solana. I don't want to preempt what he's going to say, but I think we're getting pretty close to that time.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you've said repeatedly that you don't think that the other members of the Security Council would have voted for 1696 if they didn't believe in its logic and that's why you expect them now to follow that logic. How then do you square that vote for 1696 with the various public statements we've seen from at least three of the other members of the Security Council to the effect that they don't regard sanctions as a useful instrument?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'd like to know what three you're talking about and we'll see how these come out. I know that it's long been the view of particularly Russia that sanctions may not have the intended effect. I think that's well known. But of course, Russia voted for 1696. And what I heard Minister Lavrov say was that he wanted to make sure that we had exhausted diplomatic options. I think that's the discussion we're going to have tonight and extending into next week.

QUESTION: Is the President open to continuing to pursue diplomatic discussions rather than moving to sanctions now?

SECRETARY RICE: The United States has always said that this can't go on endlessly. We already are more than a month past the deadline set by Resolution 1696. I think there is a danger of the international community not being taken seriously about what it says and what it demands. And we very much wanted the negotiations, the discussions between Javier Solana and the Iranians, to work and have been very supportive of giving those time to work. I think we want to hear from Javier Solana what he thinks of the impasse to which they've clearly come. And I think if you read his comments before the European parliament, he clearly thinks that it's come to an impasse.

But again, I'm not going to get ahead of the discussions I'm going to have with my colleagues tonight, but there is an issue of the credibility of the Security Council and the international system and you simply can't just keep talking with no outcome.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, can you tell us what happened in Erbil, what you did, who you called? What was the reaction of your counterpart when you told them what was happening?

SECRETARY RICE: They are world travelers. They know that things like this happen. Actually, I didn't do anything. The staffs worked very hard to make arrangements as quickly as possible. I did call Secretary Beckett and talk to her. Because Sergey Lavrov and I were going to have such a short overlap, I also talked to him and explained, and to Javier Solana, who is supposed to be reporting, so I just wanted them to know that I had run into a problem.

But I spent the time actually talking to Mr. Barzani, Nechirvan Barzani, the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan region, and some of his people. I also had a wonderful opportunity to talk to some of the Foreign Service and USAID people who are working in Erbil and in the PRT in Kirkuk and so that was very valuable to do as well. I got to talk to a couple of the -- I shouldn't use the word "younger," a couple of the first and second term officers. So I very much enjoyed the opportunity to talk to them.

But I just want to say that the -- we got terrific support from the air force and from the military on this, and I just want to thank them because these things happen. It was unexpected. Things like this do happen but they really did work exceptionally hard in order to be able to get us out of there with a chance to make some of the meetings. So I just want to thank them for that.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, if your discussions continue into next week and you don't get sort of any firm action by the UN Security Council, are you also looking at other paths, other groups to take action with other than just the UN?

SECRETARY RICE: It doesn't do any good to get into a hypothetical here. I think that the entire UN Security Council has voted for a resolution, 1696, and that resolution makes very clear that if the Iranians do not suspend then we go back to the Security Council for, I think to quote almost directly, "measures under Article 41, Chapter 7."

I think the discussion tonight that will be very useful is to hear from Javier Solana about where he thinks this is. But again, I just read his statement to the European parliament and I think it's pretty clear that we've come to the end of a very -- I think very good effort. But I'm prepared to listen to him and to see whether or not I've read his words correctly.

QUESTION: You say Russia agreed to the resolution provided all diplomatic options were exhausted.

SECRETARY RICE: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Well, it seems to me that one of the questions that you probably will be discussing is have all diplomatic options been exhausted. And the U.S. position, I would assume, that it is that they have indeed been exhausted. Perhaps that might be the difference between you and Minister Lavrov.

SECRETARY RICE: As hard as you try, I'm not going to prejudge what my conversation is going to be with the Russians. But I will say this. Javier Solana has given this a lot of effort. He has been open to meetings anywhere, and anywhere anytime. He has several times been stood up by the Iranians who were unable to make various meetings.

And again, I just want to say the credibility of the international community when it speaks is extremely important. We face not only the situation in Iran. We face a situation in North Korea. We face a number of situations where we have Security Council resolutions. And when you pass Security Council resolutions, they are supposed to mean something.

And so everybody wants to give diplomacy every chance. The President has said he wants to give diplomacy every chance. But that assumes that the Iranians are also serious about taking advantage of the negotiating route. And so I'll see what the discussion looks like tonight and when we are able to continue.

QUESTION: After your first visit in five, six months, can you give us your appraisal, the overall appraisal of the situation in Iraq? And what is it you (inaudible)? Is there anything you've learned on this trip that was unexpected or is there any change in your appraisal of the situation as a result of this?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think we've been able to keep pretty close tabs from Washington. I have at least a weekly, if not more often, videoconference with our Embassy. The President has a similar videoconference. In addition, I talk to Ambassador Khalilzad probably every couple of days. And of course, I have in David Satterfield somebody who follows this full time.

But there isn't any substitute really for going to a place and having a chance to sit down face to face with Iraqi leaders. I had of course seen President Talabani and Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih when I was in New York, but sitting with Prime Minister Maliki and really getting a sense of how he wants to press his national reconciliation program forward, sitting with the Sunni leaders and hearing their concerns, but saying very clearly to all of them that what the Iraqi people expect, and indeed what the United States expects, is that they're going to overcome any political differences rapidly, have this national compact in place so that there can be an international compact to support it.

Because without that political foundation, it's going to be very difficult to get a handle on the violence. And everybody wants to get a handle on the violence. And so I think having been there and sat face to face with these leaders, I have a very much better thought about what they are thinking and I think I've been able to communicate to them pretty clearly what we're thinking in the United States. It was however my first time in the north in more than a year -- I think, maybe a year and a half -- and even in that short period of time, the growth there, the construction, the planning of a new airport, is pretty remarkable. And I think it shows the potential of this entire country when the security situation is more manageable.

Okay, one more.

QUESTION: A couple things. First of all, Senator Warner yesterday said that the United States should reexamine its policy and that all options should be at the table after 60 to 90 days, your reflections on that.

Secondly, on Iran, is this the turning point and do you finally believe this is a moment you kind of head in a different direction? And do you think it will have any impact on the Iranians given what Ahmadi-Nejad has been saying in recent days?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, on the last point, I do think that international action against Iran that tries still to convince Iran that negotiations are the best strategy here, nobody wants to have Article 41 measures just to have them. The hope would be that the Iranians recognize that their isolation from the international -- that increasing isolation from the international system is not good for Iran or for the people of Iran, and that they have a very good course because I've heard several times Ahmadi-Nejad say they're trying to deny us civil nuclear power. Well, it's simply not true. And it is very important that we speak clearly that civil nuclear power is available to Iran, it's available through the Russian reactor that is being built there. It's available through the concept of a joint venture that the Russians have put out. Maybe there are other ways. But this is about the fuel cycle and enrichment and reprocessing which can lead directly to the creation of a nuclear weapon. So that's one message that I think we've just got to continue to get out there because the Iranian people need to know that they are not being denied civil nuclear power by the international community.

As to whether this is a turning point, well, I'm sure there will be many in this long process. But clearly there was a very favorable, very generous package put on the table, not just by the Europeans as had been the case in the Paris agreement, but by the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany. The United States joining in that package. The United States agreeing to join in the talks should Iran suspend its enrichment and reprocessing. So I think that was a turning point. That was a potential turning point and we'll see whether or not we now have reached the end of that road. And I suspect that we're getting there pretty quickly because we can't continue to extend deadline after deadline after deadline or nobody will take the international system seriously.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, first, Robin, I only saw the excerpted quote from Senator Warner, so I'm not going to comment on an excerpted quote. I think everybody understands that Iraq is in a very important, crucial phase as it tries to get its national reconciliation program launched here. I think the Iraqis are talking about a very intensive phase to do this before the end of the year. And so I think a lot is coming together around this period of time.

And the United States is obviously constantly looking at what we're doing and reviewing our options and our policies. But the option that the President has been very clear that he is not reviewing is beginning to somehow remove American support for this regime, for this new government in Iraq, before it's able to do the job on its own.

QUESTION: I know, I'm impossible. Looking at this past week, you faced some really tough questions, some interesting conversations. Would you reflect for us on what you have achieved this week and the obstacles that are still out there or challenges that are still out there?

SECRETARY RICE: Robin, that's a dissertation topic. (Laughter.) I've been very -- I have really -- first of all, I'm very glad I came out at this time. I've really enjoyed this trip to the Middle East because I wanted to come out in the post-Lebanon period and get a real sense for what people were thinking. I had an extensive conversation with King Abdullah. I had extensive discussions with the GCC plus Egypt and Jordan. I had a chance to sit face to face with Mahmoud Abbas and understand better what he thinks his options are for dealing with the political crisis that the Palestinians are facing. I had a chance to talk to people in Iraq and also to the Israelis.

So I think I have a much better sense of how the Lebanese events and this period are affecting people's calculations of what needs to be done. Clearly, there are extremists forces out there that need to be challenged and they're going to have to be challenged. But you challenge those forces by having a positive agenda in the Middle East and I think I have a much better sense of how these various allies, friends, partners think about what needs to constitute that positive agenda.

And I'm going to go back for extensive discussions with the President and with the other -- and with the national security principals because this is an absolutely crucial time in the Middle East, and I heard in every single place this isn't a time to stand still in terms of a policy in the Middle East. Everybody understands that a lot is changing in the Middle East and that we need to have a positive agenda. But it's not just a positive agenda for the United States. It's a positive agenda for all of these forces that want to have a positive effect on the Middle East. So that's what I did while I was out here. 2006/T23-11

Released on October 6, 2006

ENDS


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