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Condoleezza Rice On Fox News with Brit Hume

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice On Fox News with Brit Hume

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
December 15, 2005

(9:45 a.m. EST)

QUESTION: Madame Secretary. Good morning. Thank you for doing this.

SECRETARY RICE: Good morning.

QUESTION: Characterize, if you will, how well this -- or badly -- this has gone in Iraq today?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, from what we know so far, that this has been a historic and triumphant day for the Iraqi people. And all of the reports are that they're turning out in large numbers, that Sunnis are turning out in large numbers, the violence has been minimal. There has been some violence, but it's been sporadic and minimal to this point. Iraqis are going to the polls. I read one story of people going with their children and letting their children dip their fingers in the inkwell to show that they understand the meaning of freedom and democracy. So all in all, I think so far it has been really a great day for the Iraqis. They've still got a ways to go and we keep our fingers crossed because the terrorists have every reason to want to disrupt what is happening here. But again, the Iraqi people are defying expectations, they're showing that they care about their future and that they believe their future is one of democracy.

QUESTION: You noted that there's a long way to go. Obviously, there is. Yet, you believe apparently that this is going to work. Why do you believe this will work?

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SECRETARY RICE: I believe that Iraq is going to be a great nation again because, first and foremost, the Iraqi people have shown their commitment to the democratic enterprise against really great odds. There are posters in Iraq today that say, "Vote and you will die" from the terrorists. There are threats and intimidation to the Iraqi people. And yet, as they did in January and as they did in October and as they're doing today, they are showing that they -- this desire for freedom burns very deep. I'm also encouraged because despite the fact that it's a very difficult environment with a lot of cross-cutting interests and a lot of ethnic and religious cleavages they have demonstrated so far that they want to learn to resolve their differences through the political process, through a political compromise.

This is a society that has for decades resolved its differences either through tyranny in which Saddam Hussein decided the differences or through political violence. And now they are trying to do this through compromise. And finally, you see in Iraq, when you go into Baghdad, a great culture, a great city, a place that was once the center of Arab culture in the Arab world and they're going to draw on that greatness, but now in a way that supports the aspirations of their people and supports democracy, rather than tyranny.

QUESTION: The State Department has been given formally by the President, new responsibilities for the reconstruction there. What does that mean?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the new responsibilities are really not just Iraq, they really are about the future. They're less about Iraq than about the future. In Iraq, we have a very good system working there. And Zal Khalilzad, our Ambassador there, and General Casey have, I think, probably the strongest, most integrated political-military relationship that maybe we've ever seen in our country's recent history. They do everything together. And our military and civilian people are working very closely together. We're trying to do more of that because as this moves to a political drama, rather than to a military one, it is important that civilians have a bigger role and that is happening.

But Brit, if I could just talk about the broader order that the President signed, it really is to give the U.S. Government the capacity in all post-conflict situations, whether it's Haiti or Liberia or hopefully one day Sudan, to have a functioning institution that can go in when the military work is done, when the peacekeeping is in place and really start to reconstruct the country, start to reconstruct its civilian institutions, its police forces -- the foundations that help a society work so that democracy can take hold. And really that's an institutional capacity that this country has lacked, even though we knew we had do it in Bosnia-Herzegovina. We created it and then again in Afghanistan and again in Iraq. This will now give us a permanent institutional capacity.

QUESTION: Do you have now a staff to man that?

SECRETARY RICE: We are trying to build that capacity. We have a small office, the Office of Stabilization and Reconstruction, run by a very fine former Ambassador to Ukraine, who's been putting the foundation in place. But I just want to make very clear, we have done this with our colleagues at the Pentagon because in some ways it was the Pentagon that came forward to the National Security Council and said, we have got to have a better civilian capacity to do these kinds of activities. And Don Rumsfeld and I have worked very hard together to get some joint authorities from the Congress so that we can blend civilian and military activities in these post-conflict situations. We've worked very hard to make sure that this new institution, which would be civilian, works with the military. I was down at Joint Forces Command down in Norfolk a few months ago. The military commanders are excited about having this kind of civilian capacity to work hand-in-hand with our military commanders.

QUESTION: How would you characterize your relationship with Secretary Rumsfeld?

SECRETARY RICE: First of all, Don Rumsfeld and I have been friends for more than a decade and we are really good friends and Don and Joyce are good friends. We have an excellent working relationship. We work through problems. Are there sometimes times when we disagree? Of course, but we always do so with the greatest respect and, indeed the greatest friendship. And he is a really good Secretary of Defense. He has managed two wars. He has transformed the Pentagon in quite remarkable ways. And he's not only my colleague but he's my good friend.

QUESTION: The UN. You sent a reputed tough guy there to be the Ambassador to work on reforming the institution. How's it going?

SECRETARY RICE: John Bolton is doing a great job at the UN and I think the wisdom of sending somebody there who had worried about UN reform is proving himself because, Brit, we've got to get UN reform. The heads of state met in September at the UN. They said that we had to have management reform -- simple things like an ethics office, simple things like --

QUESTION: Do they have one?

SECRETARY RICE: There isn't one the Secretariat can really draw on at this point. Every institution in the world has an ethics office. You have to have that. You've got to have accountability and transparency into the programs. We've got to have a human rights council that doesn't have as the Human Rights Commission did, Sudan sitting on it at a time when it's been accused of genocide.

And so UN reform is critical because if the President, if I am going to go to the U.S. Congress and say, appropriate hard won taxpayers' dollars for UN affairs, we have got to have a commitment for reform. And we're concerned right now because it seems to be delayed -- there's some delay in that reform and we've got to do something about that.

QUESTION: So, -- I mean, how serious? Is this a delay problem?

SECRETARY RICE: I think it's very serious and I've had a number of conversations with Kofi Annan, who by the way backs the idea of UN reform because the Secretariat needs reform. He believes in that. But there needs to be a renewed commitment from some of the countries.

QUESTION: Who's holding this up? I mean, what's going on?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it has been dragged down into something of a debate about whether or not this would empower the Security Council and those states against somehow the General Assembly, which is the larger and completely representative of the entire membership with the UN. This is known argument because, of course, the General Assembly has its role to play. But if you're not going to have an Oil-for-Food scandal again in the UN, you're going to have to have somebody who is accountable and responsible. And part of the problem before was that there is really no single body that was accountable or responsible for what was happening with oil-for-food.

QUESTION: Syria. You've tried to get Syria to be helpful. You've tried to get Syria to stop the flow of trouble from across that border. How would you characterize that situation?

SECRETARY RICE: I think the Syrians are doing what they've always done, which is they do a little bit here or there to try to take the pressures and the heat off, whether it's pressure from the United States or more recently pressure from the international community, but they don't really ever take a strategic decision to change their behavior.

And, Brit, this is not an issue between the United States and Syria. This is an issue in which Syrian behavior and policy is frustrating the ability of the Palestinians to have a peaceful solution because the Syrians are supporting the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, sitting in Damascus, that is ordering attacks on Israel that destabilize the Palestinian territory and that's a problem for Mahmoud Abbas.

The Syrians are frustrating the will of the Lebanese people in many ways, the most brutal ways, by continuing intimidation. And even though nobody knows the full story, by clearly links to some of the political assassinations that have taken place.

And finally, the Syrians are frustrating the hopes of the Iraqi people for peace as they have done less than they should to keep these terrorists from coming across their border, who then go and kill innocent Iraqi children and innocent Iraqi schoolteachers.

So the problem really shouldn't be defined as one between the United States and Syria, it should be defined as a Syria that is on the wrong side of history in the Middle East, that is frustrating the hopes of Lebanese and Palestinian and Iraqi people who want a better life.

MR. HUME: Which country is the greater problem for our efforts in the Middle East, Syria or Iran?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't think we have to choose. I think we've got problems on both sides. I've described the Syrian situation and Iran, which is also out of step with the region -- probably the greatest state sponsor of terrorism, sponsoring the Palestinian rejectionists, sponsoring Hezbollah activities that are violent, an Iran that is seeking nuclear technologies that can lead to a nuclear weapon. It seems unrepentant in caring about the will of the international community, that Iran show that they're not going to seek a nuclear weapon. Now, that's why the negotiations with the EU-3 have been going nowhere and an Iran that frustrates the aspirations of its own people for democracy. And so this is an Iran that -- and by the way, with a president who says the most outrageous things that I think I've ever heard from a sitting member of the United Nations.

MR. HUME: You are speaking, I assume, of this Holocaust rejectionism and all that. What about that?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Yes. Ahmadi-Nejad is saying unbelievable things: that Israel should be wiped off the map; there was no Holocaust; Israel should move to Egypt -- should move to Europe. What kind of language is this? And it clearly shows that this is a government that does not deserve the trust that it is asking the international community to place it in, concerning its civil nuclear power.

MR. HUME: You've described there two really very serious situations in the countries neighboring Iraq. Is it -- are we doing, in your judgment, enough here? Can diplomacy, and I don't know what else -- maybe you can suggest -- but is it anywhere near enough to address these problems?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we are (inaudible) diplomacy, and I think in the case of Syria there is significant international isolation of Syria. And they've done some things (inaudible) obviously our military has also had an impact by doing the efforts that they've made along the border, with Iraqi forces very often a part of it, to secure, to help start to secure the Iraqi borders. So no, we're not just sitting still, but we expect Syria to respond to the international community. And as to Iran, we will see. I've said before, that I believe that sooner or later if Iran does not respond to this diplomacy, we're going to end up in the Security Council about the Iranian problem. It will be at a time of our choosing, but no one is prepared to allow the Iranians to get a nuclear weapon and no one is prepared to let them gain the technological expertise that would leave them in a position to get one.

MR. HUME: And you believe the Security Council would go there?

SECRETARY RICE: I don't think they're going to have any choice if the Iranians don't demonstrate that they want another way out of this.

MR. HUME: And you don't think they have?

SECRETARY RICE: I certainly haven't seen it Brit.

MR. HUME: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be with you.


Released on December 15, 2005


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