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Rice IV by Anne Gearan of the Associated Press

Interview by Anne Gearan of the Associated Press

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
December 21, 2006

QUESTION: We'll start with Iraq -- that's right. And we've heard you and others say for a while now that, you know, one event or another in Iraq -- the elections, the advent of the Maliki government was an opportunity for a fresh start or a real opportunity in Iraq. I mean, I think the Maliki government was even described as a last chance to get Iraq right. And the violence has gotten far worse since then. What should give Americans confidence that President Bush's current search for a new approach in Iraq can have any more affect than previous attempts?

SECRETARY RICE: I don't know what -- I think it's undeniable and that at each juncture a new challenge has arisen for the Iraqis, as they got through the elections, they got through the constitution and then in February of '06 the Samarra bombing set off a different challenge, which is this structural -- you know, the challenge of sectarian violence. And so I think it's perfectly fair to say at each juncture there have been new challenges. But I think this time you do have a government that's now been in power for several months that seems quite determined to take responsibility for its own affairs and I think recognizes that particularly as to the matter of sectarian violence that that's something that only Iraqis can solve. It’s a great test for that government, the real goal for that government is going to have to be to really demonstrate to the Iraqi people that they're prepared to deal with those who are not willing to live inside the law whatever sect they come from, whether they're Shia or Sunni. And I think that if they do that and they do that with the help of coalition forces to support their military forces in ways that may be needed, then this government will establish itself as one that can protect its people and govern. But that's the challenge for them right now.

QUESTION: Are you confident that Maliki can either deal with Sadr or separate himself from Sadr, survive Sadr?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I am confident that there is a broad political center in Iraq that understands how this has to be done and understands the urgency of doing it. And I don't think Sadr is one among several issues that the Iraqis need to deal with, but the real issue is whoever it is, if they're operating outside the law, if they're operating death squads, if they're going into cities and forcing populations, forcing civilians out then they've got to be dealt with. And that's really the dividing line. I think it's not Sadr or no Sadr; it's inside the law or outside the law.

QUESTION: Is Iraq now more of a negative influence on other nations in the Middle East? Has it been a positive one? I mean, is it having precisely the opposite effect as you had hoped for spreading democracy?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think in time it will be a very positive influence. I think right now it is a challenge for the region. It's a problem for the region. But it's not as if Saddam Hussein's Iraq wasn't a problem for the region or a challenge for the region. You know he occupied and tried to own Kuwait. He possessed weapons of mass destruction. He gassed Iranians. He launched a major war that cost a million Iranian lives. The truth of the matter is Iraq is -- was a huge security problem for the region under Saddam Hussein. It's now a different kind of challenge but it has the prospect of being a positive force in the region and I think that the countries of the region are now facing up to their responsibilities to try and make it a positive force not a negative one.

QUESTION: You said in time, do you have -- at this point -- any expectation of how long that will be?

SECRETARY RICE: I think it has already had a positive impact. You know, I do think the fact that you have a potential model for Kurds, Shia and Sunni to live together without repression is a positive development. And I think the fact that nobody actually worries about an Iraq that's going to be -- that will invade its neighbors is a positive development in the region. But I don't -- I can't give you a timeframe for when Iraq will be governed by -- stably governed and able to defend itself. But at that time, I think it's going to be a very positive development.

QUESTION: Perhaps no one's worried that Iraq will invade its neighbors, but some are worried that some of the neighbors might invade Iraq. Are you concerned at all about this unique position?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I do think you have to be concerned about the influence and activities in Iran, which the Iraqis have gone to the Iranians and said you need to stop these activities that are feeding sectarianism, feeding the violence. Obviously, there are questions -- there could have been questions about the northern border but the Turks have taken a quite different tack. They've gone out of their way to be supportive of the Iraqis. They've gone out of their way even to make bridges to the Kurds. There's a problem of the PKK terrorists that has to be dealt with, but even there it’s the Iraqis -- the Turks and we are dealing with that in a trilateral cooperative mechanism. So some of Iraq's neighbors have been quite helpful; other have not been as helpful.

QUESTION: And there's this question of whether if the situation really seriously took a dive that Saudi Arabia or Jordan might feel it necessary to protect their own interests.

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, I think everybody knows that that would be a very destabilizing, very bad (inaudible). And I think it's why you see instead, even if some people say that or speculate that way, you see that the Saudis have made really extraordinary efforts to try and convince Sunnis to be involved in the political process. They have been active with the tribes. The Jordanians have been active having Iraqis in and out to talk with each other in reconciliation efforts. I think the neighbors understand that any such breakdown would be very detrimental to them and to the region. And so their responsibility -- I think they're exercising it more and more -- is to be responsible neighbors for Iraq.

QUESTION: Have you told the Saudis and the Jordanians as much?

SECRETARY RICE: Sure, yeah. I mean, we had a discussion of the need to support this government and the fact that everybody now has a stake in this government just being able to survive and prosper.

QUESTION: One last one on Iraq, there's an accounting term called, sunk loss, which essentially.

SECRETARY RICE: Sunk loss.

QUESTION: Yeah, cut your losses. Go back to -- yes, I've got to go back to -- yeah. And again, basically don't throw good money after bad. What's -- I mean, what's another hundred billion going to do that $400 billion hasn't already?

SECRETARY RICE: I don't think it's a matter of money. I think it's a matter of stages of development that Iraq is having to go through. I'd be the first to say it's taken longer and it's been harder and there have been more challenges, some of them expected than I would have thought. But I think the fact is also that along the way there have been plenty of markers that show that this is a country that is worth the investment because once it emerges as a country that is a stabilizing factor, you'll have a very different kind of Middle East. And I know that from the point of view of not just monetary costs, but the sacrifice of American lives, a lot has been sacrificed for Iraq, a lot has been invested in Iraq. But the President wouldn't ask for the continued sacrifice and the continued investment if he did not believe and in fact I believe as well that this will in fact -- we can in fact succeed and that it's imperative that we succeed.

QUESTION: Do you think there's time left in the Administration for his work and yours overseas to be defined by anything other than Iraq?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that's going to depend a little bit on, you know, that's kind of out of our hands. I think there's an awful lot that defines this Administration. Obviously the Middle East is the place that we have seen the greatest challenges and the most extraordinary changes and we're in part responsible for some of those by decisions that the President made. Some of those changes were coming one way or another in a region that actually wasn't very -- wasn't particularly -- wasn't at all stable; stagnant, but it wasn't stable.

But there are an awful lot of other things that this President should be known for. He should be known for increasing -- doubling development assistance and trippling it to Africa after a period in which U.S. development assistance was essentially flat for decades. He should be known for the largest single investment in AIDS and malaria, the biggest health investment of any government program ever. He should be known for having contributed vitally to stopping the civil war between southern and northern Sudan and now working on Darfur, stopping the civil war in the DRC and really the United States with the Nigerians and ECOWAS effectively stopping the war in Liberia. I mean, I can go on and on. For the best relationship any American administration has ever had with India for landing that civil nuclear deal with India that cemented that relationship. There are an awful lot of things that I think this Administration will be known for, but as you said, there's two years more to go, so let's see what more there will be.

QUESTION: Fuad Siniora has said that in his view the United States didn't do enough to support him during their war with Israel. Mahmoud Abbas has suggested that the United States hasn't always done what -- all that he would have wanted to support him either. You pointed to both men as precisely the kind of moderate small "d" democrats you want to see in the Middle East. Can, you know, the United States be an honest broker for Arab-Israeli peace if there's a perception that, you know, you don't do enough or that you have the finger on the scale for Israel?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, nobody has their finger -- we have -- I hope we have a finger on the scale for peace and, you know, and certainly in Lebanon without the United States of America there would have been no ceasefire in Lebanon. And I know it came later than everybody would have liked, but it also came in a way that strengthened the hand ultimately of the Lebanese Government because the Lebanese authority was extended throughout the country through the Lebanese armed forces. It's something that hadn't been done in 30 years.

I think in the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the United States is in a position to take advantage of what I hope is a real opening for movement toward -- you know, more rapid movement on the roadmap through to real progress toward a Palestinian state. And I think that's true in part because of certain structural realignments that are taking place. People are seeing their interests as different. I think the Arabs see the need and desirability of making peace with Israel. I think the Israelis, in part thanks to Ariel Sharon and continued by Ehud Olmert, recognize that they're going to have to divide the land. This is something that by the way had not been the position of Likud really until Sharon's Herzliya speech. So that's a new factor.

I think the President's willingness to call unambiguously for a Palestinian state so that now, by the way, one of the so-called final status issues will there be a Palestinian state, well, yes. The President sort of solved that issue. I think all of these things will give hope and opportunity that we may be able to make progress toward a Palestinian state. A lot has changed in the last five years and no small part of it has been because of American policy.

QUESTION: What are your particular plans or goals for 2007 in -- on that front? Is there something specific you think you can do in the fairly short term?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the first thing is that I do believe that this alignment of responsible states that understand the threat of extremism, including the threat of Iran, is a very good base from which to try and strengthen these democratic forces in the Middle East, whether it's Lebanon or a democratic Palestine or in Iraq. And so I will spend a good deal of time working to build trust and build confidence and build a sense of common interest among those responsible states on an agenda for the Middle East. I think you start with your friends and you start with those who have common -- who see their interests as -- see commonality of interest with your own. And I'm going to spend a good deal of time doing that. And then I really do think that we should see if we can get the engagement of Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas underway. They want to do it. We've been working with them on that. We need to help strengthen Mahmoud Abbas in terms of his security forces, in terms of his political and economic foundation. And I think we need to explore how much faster and further we can go to achieve the full range of goals in the roadmap.

QUESTION: Will you try to arrange a meeting, two-way or three-way?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm certainly encouraging and trying to help work to support a meeting between President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert. I would hope that would take place (inaudible). Olmert I think said that they'd like to do it before the end of the year. That would be a really very good thing. I think we'll see what other meetings might take place, but I'm certainly supportive of that and tried to help.

QUESTION: On Iran, do you think the latest version of the sanctions resolutions has any real teeth or is it value -- is its value primarily as a symbol, a marker at this point in time?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'd put it little different. First of all, I think that it has teeth. There will be certain technologies and goods and activities that will be denied for Iran by the international community and that's a very good thing. But it's also the case and -- but I would not call it symbolic -- I would say that it sets a different context for dealing with Iran. It puts Iran in a category with very few countries, most of whom are on their way out of Chapter 7 sanctions. It puts Iran out there with countries that have generally reveled in their isolation, like North Korea. This is not a very attractive place for a country that considers itself a serious state in international politics, which is clearly a great culture, great people, has been an important power historically and here they will sit in Chapter 7 status in the international community. And I think that has all kinds of implications for how people deal with Iran, how people invest in Iran, how people think about financial interaction with Iran and we're seeing it. We're seeing that there is great hesitancy on the part of financial and commercial institutions to deal with an Iran which hadn't yet even been put under Chapter 7. Now it will be under Chapter 7 and with the shadow of the future of potentially further sanctions.

QUESTION: You said a little bit earlier today that you're confident you'll have Russia's support if -- but Russia hasn't totally pledged at least from what I've read to do that. If they've all abstained, I mean, will this whole long process of sort of dealing with them and you know, cajoling them along, will that have been worth it?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, we already have a resolution on Iran. Secondly, we had resolutions on Iran in the IAEA several times. I am quite certain that if the Chapter 7 resolution goes into force, everybody will, in fact, enforce it, whatever their stance in the vote. But the Russians say that they want to prevent the Iranians from perfecting technologies that could lead to another nuclear weapon; they've said that. And I take them at their word and I think that's why -- I think they will in the final analysis, I assume that they will reflect that in their support for a resolution.

QUESTION: Has either Sergey Lavrov or anyone given you assurances that they win in fact vote for it?

SECRETARY RICE: No, no. We've not talked about it. It's all being negotiating in New York.

QUESTION: How are we doing on time?

STAFF: About 10 minutes.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you for asking. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: You guys have me trained.

SECRETARY RICE: You’ve been with us a long time now.

QUESTION: On North Korea, you essentially said last month that it might not be worth having this round this quickly if the North Koreans weren't ready to really do something. And the Japanese envoy said today that he thinks that the talks are deadlocked and there's this whole thing of this chicken and the egg thing with the financial sanctions.

Was it a miscalculation to have the talks now?

SECRETARY RICE: No, I think -- first of all, I think it's -- we'll see what the North Koreans do, but I also know where the other parties stand on what needs to be done. And there is unity among the other parties on the need for a concrete outcome. It may take a little time to get there, but I think we -- if we don't, then we'll have to assess where we are in the six-party process, but -- you know, they've been there a total of three days or something, four days.

And by the way, Christmas is coming and I do think we want to let people come home for Christmas. I don't really want Chris Hill to have to stay in Beijing through Christmas, so I wouldn't be surprised if they take a break, but I think everybody understands the importance of something concrete.

In terms of the financial sanctions, the -- of financial measures, the sanctions under 1718, this is simply a set of steps that the United States would take in any circumstances where we have this kind of illegal activity. And we've made a step toward the North Koreans to agree that this can be discussed in a working group. As I understand it, the working group had very good sessions led by the Treasury Department in Beijing. I think they'll probably have another session pretty soon.

But what it needs to lead to is for the North Koreans to stop engaging in illicit activities. That's how we would resolve that.

QUESTION: It seems, though, that the North Koreans said, okay, you know, we'll come back to the talks as long as we get to -- also talk about the financial strictures, but that once having arrived, merely talking about it isn't good enough. I mean --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, we said we would talk about it ages ago, so this has been on the table for a long time now, a long time. I'm not surprised that the North Koreans would come back and make this argument, but it's not going to hold with other parties. And that's the advantage of a six-party framework rather than a bilateral framework.

Now we are prepared to talk about the BDA situation. That's why we have a working group. We are prepared to come to -- to try to resolve it, but resolving it is -- it has to be understood in the context of what caused it in the first place, which is these illicit activities.

QUESTION: Are you confident at this point that North Korea does eventually intend to dismantle its nuclear program?

SECRETARY RICE: I think that's what we're testing. No, I don't have any reason to believe that, which is why it's important for North Korea to -- particularly after the nuclear test, to make a concrete step that demonstrates their commitment to denuclearization. They're signed on to denuclearization from the September 19th agreement. We'll see whether or not they follow through.

QUESTION: What would satisfy you as its first step to show that kind of --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, there are several ideas that the negotiators are talking about, so I think I won't get into what they're talking about in the negotiations.

QUESTION: On Sudan.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes.

QUESTION: Andrew Natsios just --

SECRETARY RICE: Yes.

QUESTION: -- briefed you. Are you discouraged with that report? I mean, I think there was some thought that perhaps on this trip, he might have some breakthrough.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the two-year extension for NGOs is a good thing. That was a very important achievement because they now don't operate under (inaudible). But the Sudanese Government has not been -- well, it has disappointed the international community several times here. And the one thing that they asked for, that Bashir asked for -- that President Bashir asked for is a presidential statement reaffirming Abuja -- sorry, reaffirming Addis. That presidential statement has been passed.

Now we'll see if the Sudanese Government is going to react. We'll then have to assess where we are and what other options we have.

QUESTION: Would you support this idea of a no-fly zone as the British have suggested?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's an idea that has been there and -- you know, we're going to look at all ideas.

QUESTION: Here's a bit of a wildcard. I was watching the --

SECRETARY RICE: No way. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Don't worry. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY RICE: (Inaudible?)

QUESTION: No, no, and it's not a Peter MacKay question, no.

SECRETARY RICE: (Inaudible) today?

QUESTION: She emailed me to ask if I was going. She got stuck in the office, but she wanted to know if I was -- she wanted to know how it went.

MR. MCCORMACK: Disappointed because she wasn't here.

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, I was really looking forward --

QUESTION: I told her he looked good. Watching the coverage of Barack Obama's possible run -- this is a wildcard.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes.

QUESTION: I wonder if you think America is ready to vote for and support a black President.

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, that's interesting. Yeah. I think so. I have always thought -- I thought for a long time, actually, that in fact this was a barrier that an individual could certainly overcome. I think we shouldn't be naïve. Race is still an issue in America. You know, when a person walks into a room, race is evident. It's something that is, I think, going to be with us for a very, very long time. I don't think we are colorblind and I don't think we're going to be colorblind, probably, in my lifetime.

But I think we have become capable of looking past color to see capability and to see merit and to overcome stereotypes and to be able to, therefore, trust somebody's abilities and that's what you -- what people look for, I think, when they are looking for a President. And I think we've overcome, in some sense, in terms of race, but -- you know, we don't come from the same set of values and we don't come from -- I think Americans have been -- most Americans, a great majority of Americans have overcome that.

So yes, I think a black person can be elected President and I think they'll probably, in the final analysis, be judged on all the things that Americans ultimately end up making their decisions on: Do I agree with this person; do I share this person's basic values; am I comfortable with this person who's going to make decisions when I'm not in the room that are very consequential. And so I think those are going to be all the same questions to like, you know, this is said of -- does this person add up to someone who I want to see in my home every night on TV and who's going to fit in the Oval Office? And I think that that -- it will really be the same questions and while I think in the initial stages just like when somebody walks in a room, you do see black or you do see white in America. I think it is less and less a barrier to seeing who that person really is.

QUESTION: If not you, should -- would -- do you think Colin Powell should run?

SECRETARY RICE: (Laughter.) I'm not going to give Colin any advice and he's not going to give me any advice on this one.

QUESTION: Well, he's already been giving you a little advice lately. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY RICE: Not (inaudible.)

QUESTION: Okay. Anything I left out?

SECRETARY RICE: No, good questions.

QUESTION: Good.

SECRETARY RICE: All right, Merry Christmas.

QUESTION: I hear you'll be down in --

MR. MCCORMACK: DOD.

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, DOD, yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: Bob Gates and the Secretary's going to get together and do --

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, you want to talk about that a little more?

QUESTION: Yeah, absolutely.

SECRETARY RICE: First of all, Bob and I go back quite a long way from the National Security Council days, Soviet specialist days. I do think it's -- I don't know, you could probably check, but I wonder if this is the first time that the Secretary of Defense is a former college president and the Secretary of State is a former college provost. Probably have an interesting combination.

We had dinner the other night. We, I think, we'll do that very often, but we're also starting, in the first week in January, going to arrange a series of quite long and extensive joint briefings with our key advisors on issues where we overlap. I think we'll have an extensive hearing on Afghanistan, have an extensive one on some of the Africa issues, Sudan, Somalia. So we plan to do this on a fairly regular basis, but we are going to try to do some of the most important and consequential areas right up front.

And we think this will be a way to keep what has been good coordination between Defense and State, but to enhance that because increasingly, you know, this continuum between what the diplomats do and what the military do is a continuum. It's not bipolar. And so we've talked about ways to enhance that cooperation.

QUESTION: Is it fair to say that's kind of getting a fresh start with State and DOD?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, State and DOD have been fine. We've had good cooperation. And so -- but it is an opportunity to, with him coming on, to have the teams together to take a hard look at some of the areas that are particularly challenging. And I think that'll be useful.

QUESTION: The whole idea that his eyes on Iraq could push things back and delay Bush's speech and so forth, it didn't really seem to materialize until about a week ago or so. Is it your sense that he's now kind of -- I don't know, double-checking or sort of back-reading what the recommendations are?

SECRETARY RICE: No, I just think he needed to go out and have a chance to go to Iraq and talk to (inaudible). It takes a little time. You know, he's been outside, now he's inside, and I think the President wanted the full -- his full experience and understanding. I don't -- he'll be back and they'll have a chance to talk, we'll all have a chance to talk. I don't know quite what the President will decide, but the President needs to take his time and review all this. He needs to take his time and have confidence himself, conviction himself that the course that he's going to recommend, the course adjustments that he's going to recommend are really the right ones.

And so whatever time that it takes I think we -- the President needs to take it. Now that it's, right? Okay.

QUESTION: Merry Christmas.

2006/1137

ENDS


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