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Rice Interview With Atlanta Journal Constitution

Interview With Jim Wooten of the Atlanta Journal Constitution

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
October 30, 2006

QUESTION: Good morning, Madame Secretary. This is Jim Wooton with the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

SECRETARY RICE: Hi, how are you? Yes, nice to talk to you.

QUESTION: Thank you. I'm doing well.

SECRETARY RICE: Good, good. It's been a while. Listen, I'm sorry I had to postpone from Friday but thank you very much for moving it.

QUESTION: No problem with that and I understand your busy schedule today, so whenever you need to break away just let me know.


QUESTION: I was going to ask you a general question first. And that is we are in a season of politics and I wanted to ask you how the internet -- the blogosphere and this sort of instant universal dissemination of domestic politics, especially on the war, changes your job representing and defending American interest abroad especially on the war.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it really only makes it necessary for me to say to colleagues and people with whom I speak abroad, you know, the President is on a firm course here and we're in a season in which we're going to debate these issues and, you know, we're a big democracy and people debate them. But if -- in a sense, don't try and look at our politics to see where our policies are going. That's really the only effect that it has because everybody abroad follows the politics with interest. But I don't think it has very much of an effect on how I do my job except just to remind people that we're a big democracy and we're going to have these debates, but that U.S. policy is U.S. policy.

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QUESTION: On that, on Iraq, on the war on terror, American people are wrestling with the war, specifically the Iraqi phase and seem to be searching for something that's between stay the course and cut and run.


QUESTION: Failure there, of course, would be unthinkable --

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, unthinkable.

QUESTION: -- and worse than a dozen Somalias.


QUESTION: Does this Administration have the political capitals to succeed there and do the American people have the stomach for protracted conflict?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I certainly think that the President is capable of mobilizing the American people and mobilizing the system to support a policy that is really when you think about it very much where most Americans are. No -- very few Americans want us to simply pick up and leave. They recognize the stakes. They know it's important. They want to know that it's possible to have a good outcome and so I think the real goal for the Administration has to be to talk about how that outcome comes into being, how a government of Iraq gets to the place that it can defend itself -- the Iraqis get to the place that they can defend themselves and govern themselves. And that really is the task at hand. And on that front, there are a lot of challenges because of the violence, particularly the sectarian violence, but this is also a political system in Iraq that's maturing and in which the Iraqis are determined to take more control.

I was sort of -- I was really rather bemused, I guess I would say, about this controversy over the last couple of days with people saying, well, the Iraqis and the Americans are not on the same page because the Iraqis are saying they want to take more control. They want to take more responsibility. Well, we've been saying since the beginning that the whole goal here is to get Iraqis to take more responsibility, to take more control and we have a government that really wants the reins and that's a very positive development. But I think most people understand that we are not going to leave prematurely. We're also going to make the critical adjustments that have to be made as circumstances dictate and as conditions on the ground change and we've made some of those. One of them that I would point out to you, Jim, is that there's been a significant recalculation of how to structure the Iraqi security forces, increase in the number of army forces, for instance, because the army is emerging as an institution that does have national support rather than the police have come out -- most people see them as more local and therefore more sectarian. So that's just one of the adjustments that has been made.

So when people say, are you going to just stay the course, are you going to cut and run, of course, the goal is to make the adjustments that are necessary. But to keep very firmly in mind the goal which is to get this job done.

QUESTION: How is it possible to convey to the American people those indicators that we are succeeding there?

SECRETARY RICE: That is really the challenge because we had some very big indicators early on. You had the formation of an interim government, then you had the elections, you had the writing of a constitution, then you had the formation of a new -- elections and the formation of a new interim government on that basis. And so you had a series of events that pointed very clearly to the maturation of the political system, and in fact of finishing the political course that had been laid out when Saddam Hussein was overthrown in 2003. Now you're into at some level a more routine sense of governing, which makes it harder to show progress.

But that is one reason that I think the Iraqis themselves, principally because their own population also needs to be able to see progress, has set out these kind of goals, benchmarks, objectives, like the passage of a hydrocarbons law which would demonstrate that the oil wealth is going to be shared in the country, the passage of a law on demobilization of militias, the passage of a law on de-Baathification which would show how people that were once associated with the Baath Party would be treated. They will have provincial elections. So there are important political milestones that will be coming up and I think showing that they are putting those forward and meeting them will be very important to the American people but also to the Iraqi people.

QUESTION: On another subject, on North Korea and nuclear weapons, you're just back from there last week. You were saying that the Chinese didn't confirm that Kim Jong-il had either apologized or said he would never do it again. Is there anything different since then?

SECRETARY RICE: No. The Chinese never said anything about an apology. I don't know what he may have said to them about their own relationship, but he certainly -- in nothing that they told me did he apologize for having tested, which is the way this question came up.

In terms of what he said about future tests, he did say he wasn't going to test immediately but he said it all depended on the -- you know, the international system -- or the international political climate and on whether U.S. hostile policies remained in place, which hardly sounds like a promise not to test again.


SECRETARY RICE: And so I don't think there was any contradiction there. The Chinese have since said that he didn't apologize and they've since said that he did say he had no immediate plans to test but it depended on the international system, which is exactly what I heard from them.

QUESTION: A couple of weeks ago, a week or so ago here, Jimmy Carter said that there was great merit in the negotiations that he did with North Korea in '94 and is of the opinion that two-party talks involving the U.S. and North Korea are desirable. This is a quote: "I think as far as North Korea is concerned, they would be willing, but I don't think there's a chance in the world that the U.S. Government would approve I or someone else to go negotiate with North Korea."

Is there a chance in the world and is there any value in involving outsiders?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't think we really need outsiders. This is something -- look, we talk to people who talk to the North Koreans all the time from the outside and those are valuable voices. But look at where we are. The North Koreans have tested. But we have a coalition of states that's been working on this problem together now for a couple of years so that you have China, probably the most influential country with North Korea, signed on to Chapter 7 sanctions against North Korea that I think give some prospect that the North Koreans may feel enough pressure that they in fact come back in seriousness to the six-party talks ready to actually negotiate.

The reason we don't want bilateral negotiations is that we have been down that road. The '94 agreement, which was worth a try at the time, I think, was then violated by the North Koreans and they had no penalty to pay vis-Ã -vis anybody except the United States because nobody else was party to that agreement. So this time, if we actually get an agreement, it's going to be -- the parties to it will be China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and the United States. That's a very much more powerful position.

But I really would like to debunk one myth: the idea that we don't talk to the North Koreans, even bilaterally within the context of six-party negotiations. You know, back in 2005 the Chinese said to us that the North Koreans wanted to talk to Chris Hill, would we do this in Beijing in order to get the six-party talks restarted. And Chris Hill had that dinner in Beijing, he and his North Korean counterpart. And then about six weeks later, the six-party talks began again. And so it's not that we have not talked to the North Koreans, and I wouldn't be surprised if we talk to them very often, but -- and by the way, inside the six-party talks Chris Hill had bilateral discussions with the Japanese, bilateral discussions with the South Koreans and bilateral discussions with the North Koreans.

So what we don't want to do is to get ourselves into a negotiation with the North Koreans where it's the United States and North Korea agreeing to something that the other states who have real leverage have no stake in. That's different than saying, "Should we talk to the North Koreans?" We do and we should.

QUESTION: On a similar issue with Iran, the sanctions that are being discussed, negotiated, now, is there a real likelihood that sanctions will work, and especially sanctions that don't include the light-water reactor that the Russians are building?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I do think that we will -- first of all, that we will get sanctions. They will not look like the North Korean sanctions. The Iranian program is not as far along and so they won't look like that. I do think we'll get sanctions. I think they'll be principally to prevent further development of the Iranian nuclear program and missile programs, which is a good thing.

I think you have to look not just to those sanctions but to the collateral effect of a country being under sanctions by the United Nations Security Council, which tends to have an effect on decisions that people make about investment, decisions that people make about handling Iranian assets. Already, four big banks have pulled out of Iran because nobody wants to be reputationally associated with their weapons of mass destruction programs. So there's a kind of collateral effect that has to be figured in too because the Iranians, unlike the North Koreans, are very integrated into the international system, the international economic system, the international diplomatic system. We are one of the few countries that doesn't have diplomatic relations with Iran.

And so I think there will be an effect on Iran's ability to access the international system in the way that it needs to, and so that will be very beneficial. Again, we will keep open the possibility of negotiation. Whenever you have sanctions or pressure, the purpose isn't just to sanction or pressure, but it's to get the party to decide it's time to take a different course. And we'll leave open the possibility of negotiations and here I think the Iranians had a real opening. You know, for 27 years the United States and Iran have not talked and we said all you have to do is suspend your program and I personally said I'll be at the table any place, any time. And they couldn't do that despite the fact that that's been a demand of the international system for more than two years.

QUESTION: On another area, another subject, this having to do with the Western Hemisphere.


QUESTION: As you know, in Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega is probably going to be elected president this weekend. He now may or may not be more moderate than he was 25 years ago. Is there reason for the U.S. to be concerned long term, not just about what's happening there but whether U.S. influence in the region, in the Western Hemisphere, is deteriorating?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, you know, we'll wait and see what happens in the elections.

QUESTION: Right, sure.

SECRETARY RICE: Because there were several other candidates who were supposed to win who didn't do so. And so, you know, the Nicaraguan people have not spoken and obviously if this election is free and fair, which is what we're going to concentrate on and what the international system is concentrating on, and we'll respect its decision. But this hasn't happened yet.

We'll see what the policies of the next Nicaraguan government will be. I think it's going to be hard not to have policies that respond to the need for open markets and for free trade, and to get into a situation in which the Nicaraguan economy is isolated. I think that would be a very difficult policy choice.

But as to the influence of the United States, I would just remind, you know, that if you look at the last both sets of elections and kind of what's happening in Latin America, this is not about the influence of the United States. It's about the influences of policies that while they may elect candidates from the left -- and the United States has no problem with dealing with candidates, you know, with governments from the left, Chile, Brazil. It doesn't matter where you come from. What matters is are you devoted to open markets and investment in trade and investing in people. And whether it is the government of President Vasquez in Uruguay, which has very good relations with the United States, or the victory of Felipe Calderon in Mexico or the victory of Garcia in Peru or the failure of Correa to win in Ecuador, it looks to me like things have been going the other way.

QUESTION: On the free trade, this nationalization or re-nationalization of the oil and gas industry in Bolivia --

SECRETARY RICE: Bolivia. Well, that is a contrary case and it is unfortunate. I think it's mostly unfortunate for Bolivia. But you know, it's caused -- the biggest rift has not been with the United States. It's been with Brazil. And so I think we have to be careful not to simplify what are very complicated sets of relations in Latin America, because when that happened in Bolivia it's been principally with Brazil that there's been a problem.

Jim, I'm afraid I'm going to have to go, if that's helpful.

QUESTION: That is very helpful and I am honored to have a chance to talk with you and I wish you well and appreciate it.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, thank you. I enjoyed it very much. We'll do it again.

QUESTION: Great, thanks.

SECRETARY RICE: Take care. Bye-bye.


Released on November 6, 2006


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