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Briefing On Recent Africa Trip, Upcoming Asia Trip

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
February 22, 2008

Briefing on Recent Africa Trip and Upcoming Asia Trip

SECRETARY RICE: Good afternoon. I thought I would stop off in Washington on my way from Africa to Asia and pick up those of you who will be going on with me to Asia. Let me just make a few opening remarks and then I'm happy to take your questions.

We have just concluded an extraordinary trip to Africa. It really was an extraordinary trip. It was wonderful to see how the people of the five countries that we visited are really responding to not just the generosity of America, but to the challenge to use these innovative programs, whether it is the Millennium Challenge or the President's Malaria Initiative or, of course, PEPFAR, to better their lives. It was really quite good to be with good leaders who are trying to better the lives of their people. We were able to talk about the value of partnership. It has been very much this President's view that Africans, given an opportunity and given some assistance, can indeed solve their own problems and that we ought to do this in partnership.

We, of course, visited two countries that are recently out of very bad periods of conflict: Rwanda, where I think we were all very moved by the genocide museum there, and it's quite remarkable how far that country has come from the extraordinarily dark days of 1994 and before; and of course, Liberia, where the intervention of the United States in helping the Liberians to first rid themselves of Charles Taylor, then to get control of the security situation , and it was really very moving to be in Liberia, a country with which, of course, we share a particular history. And I'm looking at Helene when I say that. Helene, your book was--everybody was reading it. It was quite a remarkable story. But it is quite something to go to Liberia and to see the two flags side by side: one, of course, very much like the other because of long history of Liberia having been founded by freed American slaves. I particularly was glad to go to the University of Liberia where my aunt, my father's sister, taught as a professor of literature on an exchange program from Southern University, a historically black college in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1961. And it just shows the long history of engagement and tradition between, particularly, African American populations and Liberia.

We were able to talk also with the leaders in those countries, particularly President Kikwete in Tanzania, who is now the head of the AU, about the remaining conflict situations in Africa, particularly about the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the United States has been very involved in helping to resolve that conflict, but of course, there are still problems in Eastern Congo. We talked about Sudan, how to reinforce the CPA, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between North and South which ended decades of civil war that really had caused literally millions of lives, and how to strengthen that portion while addressing the challenges of Darfur in a more urgent manner. And I think you probably heard the President on that.

We also--of course, we're concerned about Kenya. I made the side trip to Kenya. And I might just note that I talked this morning with Kofi Annan. We had all hoped that there would be a resolution of this crisis today. I think that the--as I said when I was in the region, there is nothing that is unbridgeable between these two sides. Everybody, I believe, thinks that there is a solution if there is enough political will to take it. But it's going to require real power sharing, not pretend power sharing. It's going to require consensus--I'm sorry, compromise on both sides. And I am continuing to stay close to those discussions. I said to Kofi if there's anything more that we need to do, but he's going to--I'm happy to do it -- but he's going to reconvene the parties, and hopefully they will come to a conclusion because the people of Kenya expect it. There is very strong pressure, properly, from Kenyan civil society, business community, from the Kenyan press, that this get resolved. I would just note that, for instance, the occupancy rates in Kenyan hotels are very far down, which says something about the real obligation of the political forces here to resolve their differences.

We were also treated to not only the opportunity to see the programs at work and plenty of kids whose lives have been saved and who are therefore enjoying a future, thanks to American generosity; but I just want to report that the President did a fair amount of dancing when he was in Africa and demonstrated that he can stay on the beat. We are going on now to Asia --

QUESTION: Where's the video?

SECRETARY RICE: (Laughter.) Helene, you look skeptical, but I was there. I can certify. Moving on, I, of course, tomorrow will travel to Asia, first to South Korea to attend the inauguration of the new South Korean President. I'll then go on to China and Japan. Asia is a place where we have put a lot of effort into strengthening our relationships, particularly our bilateral relationships, and I really look forward to meeting the new South Korean leadership. We've had an extensive period now of strengthening our bilateral security arrangements. We've had a period of negotiating an FTA, a free trade agreement and, of course, working together in the six-party talks to address the North Korean nuclear challenge. I will also meet, for the first time, my new Japanese counterpart and I look forward to that. And I look forward to going on to China.

Now obviously, we will have a broad range of discussions, but I do expect that there will be considerable discussion of the six-party talks and how we move forward. There has been progress, particularly on the disabling side. There is more work to do. We need a complete declaration from the North Koreans about both their proliferation activities, their current program - plutonium program, which they are in the process of disabling, but also the HEU program, that they need to make clear what has happened there. So we'll talk about how to do that.

Let me just note that we've been concerned, of course, about the proliferation issue for quite a long time and I will talk to our six-party partners about how we use the six-party framework to address proliferation issues. Because I am of the mind that we have the right group of countries at that table with the right set of incentives and disincentives to address not just denuclearization, which obviously is extremely important, but also proliferation. And I'll be carrying that message and discussing that with our partners.

So I'm now happy to take your questions.

Anne.

QUESTION: A different continent; did the Serb Government fail its duty to protect the U.S. embassy from attack and did you fear for the lives of Americans or other embassy employees inside the building?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first, yes, the Serb Government did. They had an obligation to protect diplomatic missions and from what we can tell, the police presence was either inadequate or unresponsive at the time. And we've made very clear to the Serbian Government that we don't expect that to happen again. Not only were we attacked, but a number of other embassies were as well.

As to the American citizens, I might note that we had closed for operations the embassy several days before. The Ambassador, for instance, was outside the embassy. I had an opportunity to talk with him yesterday. There were American security personnel inside the building. They were able to secure themselves and to secure those important parts of the facility. We're still assessing the damage, but it looks as if what happened is that they breached a kind of outer building, consular building. And yes, we do hold the Serb Government responsible and we've made that very clear.

Yes.

QUESTION: Ms. Secretary, to what extent does your planned meeting with Mr. Olmert in Tokyo reflect your concern about the humanitarian situation in Gaza? And any fear that you may have that the violence there may escalate out of control?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the meeting with Prime Minister Olmert is really opportunistic. He is going to be in Japan at the same time that I am and thought it was a good opportunity to meet with him. Obviously, this is a time of intense activity concerning the Middle East peace process, the need for progress on the ground in order to make certain that one of the three pillars of Annapolis - there was the roadmap, there's the progress on the ground and institution-building and economic benefit for the Palestinian people and then, of course, the negotiations themselves. And we want to make sure that they're moving at roughly the same speed because unless there are improvements on the ground, it's going to be very difficult, I think, for there to be the right atmosphere for the negotiations.

But I expect that we'll talk about all of those pillars, including the situation in Gaza. We have been very concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza. We are making more resources available for the humanitarian needs of Gazans, so of course, that will be a part of the discussion. It is very important to remember that Hamas is the real problem in Gaza, that it is the absence of effort against those who are firing rockets into Israel that really has to be, obviously, condemned. That said, there are innocent Gazans that we don't want to suffer and we are going to do everything we can on the humanitarian side and I'll talk with the Prime Minister about that. But I just want to make clear we have stepped up and will continue to step up our own humanitarian assistance in Gaza.

Yeah, Jim.

QUESTION: By now, you've had a chance to review the latest IAEA report and you've seen that it states flatly that Iran continues to enrich uranium and therefore, is not in compliance with several UN Security Council resolutions. The report also stated that Iran has been forthcoming about some issues, but in particular, not about the so-called Green Salt project which involves experiments with high explosives, testing, and the design of a reentry vehicle. A Senior State Department Official who briefed reporters a short while ago said that the evidence on this particular aspect, the Green Salt issue, is extensive. And I wonder what you can say about the strength of this evidence in light of widespread questions about American intelligence in the aftermath of the Iraq WMD issue and the NIE. How strong is this Green Salt evidence?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't want to try to put words into the intelligence estimate or to make assessment. Let me just say that we are - we believe that there is very good reason, very good confidence in this information and that's why we've passed it on to - we've helped the IAEA with information about what has happened there.

But it's only one of three areas that I think the Iranians are still very lacking in. One is on this matter of weaponization and what has been happening in those covert programs and there need to be answers. Secondly, there's the question of the additional protocol which Iran has not yet signed and third, there is, of course, as you mentioned, the enrichment and reprocessing where not only is Iran continuing to defy, but they're apparently trying to enhance their activities on enrichment and reprocessing.

So there is very good reason after this report to proceed to a Security Council resolution, a third Security Council resolution. The basic elements have been already agreed among the six, but obviously, this now needs to be worked within the Security Council. That is what has happened. The British and the French have tabled a resolution, but I think that this report demonstrates that whatever the Iranians may be doing to try to clean up some elements of the past, it is inadequate given their current activities, given questions about their past activities, and given what we all have to worry about, which is the future in which Iran could start to perfect the technologies that could lead to a nuclear weapon. So I think this is just good reason to move forward with the Security Council resolution.

Yes, Sylvie.

QUESTION: After this new IAEA report, are you optimistic that a third resolution can be adopted soon at the Security Council?

SECRETARY RICE: I believe that anyone who takes a rather - even dispassionate assessment of what this report says or what the Iranians are doing would have to say that the reasons for a Security Council resolution are very strong. Iran continues to enrich. It is, in fact, enhancing its enrichment activities. It is clearly making all kinds of statements that suggest that it's not going to deal with the will of the international community. It hasn't answered questions about past activities in covert programs that they say they didn't have and it has not moved toward the additional protocol.

So if you just look at that record, I would have to say there is a very strong case for moving forward on a Security Council resolution. And given that many of the elements are very clear as to what should be in that Security Council resolution, given the success of the Berlin discussions between the United States, the European Three, Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia, I see no reason that we can't move toward a Security Council resolution with some dispatch.

Yes, Helene.

QUESTION: On Pakistan, it's looking more and more like the presidency of President Musharraf is shrinking considerably. What are the plans of the United States on dealing with - moving forward? Are you going to continue to use President Musharraf as your primary point man in Pakistan or are you making plans now to deal with whoever the next prime minister is?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me say what's happened in Pakistan and I want to be very clear about this. It was many, many months ago that I stood next to the Foreign Minister of Pakistan during a visit there and said there need to be free and fair elections in Pakistan in what we thought would be December of 2008–2007, but of course, because of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, became February 2009*.

And we have had exactly that message and hammered home that message since that day. That was the message that we gave to President Musharraf: Lift the state of emergency, take off the uniform and guide your country toward free and fair elections. I believe he has done exactly that. And the elections were elections that I think instill some confidence in the Pakistani people that this was an outcome that moves them closer or further down the road back to not just civilian government but to democratic civilian government that is more broadly based. That is, to my mind, the best possible outcome, which is that the Pakistani people now have a chance for civilian government that is broadly based.

How they arrange their coalition is really a Pakistani affair. The president of Pakistan is Pervez Musharraf and he is the president of Pakistan, and so, of course, we will deal with him. We will continue to pursue American interests which are for a stable and democratic Pakistan. That's why our programs have been also not just about counterterrorism but also on education and also on women's empowerment and all of the elements of support for Pakistani social and economic progress that we've had. It's also, though, in our interest to have a sustained and very robust counterterrorism effort. Not only is that important to American security -- and frankly, I think the American people expect the President of the United States to continue to pursue an agenda with Pakistan that protects our interests in a robust counterterrorism effort -- that said, that counterterrorism effort is also in the interest of the Pakistani people, who watched one of their great political leaders assassinated by extremists. It was very clear if you listened to what Pakistanis were saying at the time of their polls, they wanted a better life, they wanted more jobs, they also want the extremism and the violence to end. So I think we and the Pakistani people have a common agenda here. They have made their voices known. The United States is very proud for them that they have made their voices known in this way, and we're going to pursue relations with Pakistan with our interests in mind the way that we would with any other country that we believe is making progress toward a more democratic future.

Zain.

QUESTION: There's been several articles written about Condoleezza Rice for Vice President. Some have called it a Republican dream team with you on the ticket. If asked, would you be willing to consider accepting --

SECRETARY RICE: I've said all along what I'm going to do. You can all come and visit me in California.

QUESTION: So yes or no? Not a chance?

SECRETARY RICE: I have always said that the one thing that I have not seen myself doing is running for elected office in the United States. I have -- for elected office -- because I didn't even run for high school president. You know, it's not in my genes.

But look, there will be very good people running for the American people to make their choices. I will be making my choice as a voter, and that's going to be fun after a campaign in 2000 in which I was extremely involved, after the reelection in 2004 where I was National Security Advisor and so not involved as directly but obviously with an interest in how it came out. And I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing as Secretary of State to see if we can use the last few months, as the President has put it, to sprint to the finish because there's a lot of work to do. This has been a really monumental period in American foreign policy. As a student of foreign policy, I don't know that I've seen many that have been more consequential. And I'm looking forward to ending this period with the United States having faced a lot of the challenges that came out of not just September 11th but the rapid change that's going on around the world, and I'll be paying attention to that.

Yes, Charlie.

QUESTION: Yes, Madame Secretary, on your forthcoming trip, when you're in Beijing, do you -- would you hope to meet with any North Korean delegate? If so -- since they're a part of the process, obviously? And did you plan to? And if you don't plan to, why don't you plan to?

SECRETARY RICE: I don't plan to. And I just don't think that it's something that's useful at this time or that is warranted. Chris Hill has recently had those contacts and he'll continue to have them. I think everybody knows what needs to happen here. North Korea is quite aware of what it needs to do. And I do look forward to talking to the Chinese, the Japanese, the South Koreans about how we can move this forward.

I want to say I do think that the progress that has been made on disabling is something that already moves us further along than we've really ever been with the North Korean nuclear program. But there is surely a lot of work to do in terms of next stages of really not just disabling but dismantling. There is work to be done on, of course, the accounting for various programs. But I don't see any purpose at this point in meeting with North Koreans.

John.

QUESTION: I have a question on Turkey, but just because I can't resist, if I can just follow up on the political question. Just on the sprint to the finish, do you anticipate staying right till the very last day of this Administration? Will you be involved at all in the upcoming campaign? Will you be campaigning for John McCain at the Republican Convention? Will you be speaking? And then I've got a real question after that. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY RICE: Suppose I make that your only question, John. Then what are you going to do? Look, I'm going to be Secretary of State and I believe there's still a lot of work to do. John, we all take life a day at a time in terms of trying to get the job done, but I don't expect in any way to be involved in this campaign. I expect to be involved in trying to do the things that we've laid out, trying to leave the six-party framework not just intact but robust enough to continue to deal with the challenges of the Korean Peninsula and North Korean nuclear programs; to continue to nurture and push forward the international consensus that Iran must stop its enrichment and reprocessing in order to take benefit of the great offers that have been made to it; to move to the Palestinian state that we all hope can be brought into being. You know, I was just -- as I was just on this trip, Sean and I were sort of going over what had happened since we left for Africa and today, and I think it's clear that I'm going to be plenty busy trying to deal with the issues before us.

And you wanted to ask about Turkey?

QUESTION: Well, one of the things that's happened is, obviously, this movement of Turkish forces on the Iraqi border. Have you sent a message to Turkey about that? How concerned are you?

SECRETARY RICE: We've been in contact with the Turkish Government at several levels and we continue to express our absolute solidarity with Turkey about the PKK. This is a common enemy of the United States and Turkey. It is also an enemy of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi Government, because the Iraqi territory cannot be used for terror -- should not be used for terrorist attacks against Turkey. We've also been very clear, though, that stability and progress for Iraq is in the interest of Turkey. And so everything should keep in mind that nothing should be done to destabilize what is a fragile but improving situation in Iraq.

Now that said, we've - this latest operation ought to be of the shortest duration possible and it's got to keep in mind that while the terrorists need, obviously, to be stopped from doing what they're doing, that there really can't be a destabilization of that region. We have encouraged contacts between the Iraqi Government and the Turkish Government and I think those have been facilitated by us and they'll continue to be facilitated by us.

Yeah, Libby.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about this New York Philharmonic concert coming up while you're in the region. Do you think you'll have a chance to watch while you're over there? And also, what potential does this concert have possibly for opening up further relations between the U.S. and North Korea?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, look, I think it's - from my point of view, it's a good thing that the Philharmonic is going, but the North Korean regime is still the North Korean regime. And so I don't think we should get carried away with what listening to Dvorak is going to do in North Korea. The hope is that - and my hope is that over time, the interaction with the outside world; indeed, the kinds of things that we're doing in the six-party talks, indeed, the kinds of things that are envisioned as the six-party framework moves forward, which is that there should be more engagement and opening up of North Korea to the outside world will, in fact, have an effect.

We are major proponents of being able to speak to the plight of the North Korean people. We, in fact, have always been willing to give food aid to try to help the North Korean people who deserve a better life and certainly, a better future than they've had. And so one can always hope that engagement with the outside world, no matter how limited, starts to have an effect and through Radio Asia, for instance, we - which is one of our - one of the VOA institutions, we try and broadcast there. So there's a full-scale program here. It's not just about the nuclear program, although obviously, that's a danger to the Korean Peninsula and something that we are - we're trying to deal with.

But I don't want to overestimate the impact of something like this, but to the degree that the North Korean people have some access to the outside, that they know that there is something else in life, I think it's a good thing.

QUESTION: Will you be able to watch?

SECRETARY RICE: I doubt it.

Yes.

QUESTION: It's been nearly two years since you restored full diplomatic ties with Libya and yet, you have not been to Libya yourself. You still can't get the ambassador through Congress and the Lautenberg Amendment seems to be straining relations between yourself and Tripoli. The Foreign Minster has sent you a letter recently asking you to intervene to what they say is correct the - that legislation. What is the state of relations at the moment with Libya? When are you going? Do you think it's in trouble?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, Sue, if you look back not at the last two years, but at the 20-plus before that, you have to say that we are on a completely different footing with Libya. And we want to press relations forward and to move them forward. Libya made an important strategic choice to give up its weapons of mass destruction. We believe that it's made an important choice to get out of the terrorism business. But we do still have differences. We are concerned about the families of terrorism victims and we have tried to encourage that there be solutions and resolution to some of those problems.

But I still expect that I will go to Libya. I expect that we'll continue to have to talk about difficult things: human rights, terrorism. We're looking at the Lautenberg Amendment and its effect and what can be done, but obviously, when you have a major strategic shift of the kind that Libya has made, you want there to be some affirmation of the importance of having done that. I would say that the very fact that you have American companies and other European companies and diplomats going in to Libya, engaging the Libyans in ways that was unimaginable just a few years ago, already shows some of the benefit of Libya having made these decisions. But I think we want to try and press this forward, and I'm certainly personally preparing to do so.

Maybe one more question. Yes.

QUESTION: As you know, the Kosovo independence has ignited a substantial amount of anger among the Serbian population, how would you respond to the Serbs who claim the U.S. support for Kosovo's independence is solely to maintain a military presence in the region?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the United States maintains a presence with the KFOR forces only because they are needed there and only because there continue to be tensions out of the '90s that require this international presence through NATO. I don't think anyone will be happier than the American President on the day that Kosovo and -- is capable of having the kind of security forces that can take care of its people and contribute to regional stability, that the Balkans is a more stable place. We believe that the resolution of Kosovo's status will really finally let the Balkans begin to put its terrible history behind it. I mean, after all, we're talking about something from 1389, 1389. It's time to move forward. And Serbia needs to move forward, Kosovo needs to move forward. And it needs to move forward in a way that is consistent with democratic values. It needs to move forward in a way that would allow both the Serbs and the Kosovars to have a European perspective. We offered Partnership for Peace to Serbia. We hope that there will be a European association agreement with Serbia.

We want to have a friendly relationship with the Serb people. I talked to Prime Minister Tadic a couple of days before the U.S. support for the recognition of Kosovo, and I said to him we want to be a friend of Serbia and we want to be supportive of democratic tendencies there. But it is really time for Serbia to look to the future, not to the past. It was a U.S. -- I'm sorry, it was a UN envoy, Mr. Ahtisaari, who really laid the foundation for what the resolution was going to be. This wasn't a U.S. decision. This was a well-respected diplomat who took a hard look, who did hard negotiations and hard discussions and came to the conclusion that Kosovo's status was going to have to be resolved in this way.

And the United States has supported that. We also are pushing very hard and working very hard with the Kosovars to make sure they respect the Ahtisaari requirements. Indeed, they're passing legislation to try and come into conformance with those. This is an opportunity for Serbia to move forward, Kosovo to move forward, and the Balkans to move forward. And that is why the United States has taken the step that it has and it is our great hope that the day is coming when Kosovars and Serbs can live side by side and when the Balkans can be stable and, in fact, free of international forces. But we will exercise our obligations and our duties to the KFOR forces, to our NATO allies until the day that they're no longer needed.

Thank you very much. See you tomorrow.

*February 2008 [return to text]

2008/134
Released on February 22, 2008

ENDS

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