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Sec. Rice Briefing En Route Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
En Route Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
December 4, 2007

Briefing En Route Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

SECRETARY RICE: Okay, let me just say a word about where we're going first, and then we can get to other questions you have. I'm going to go to Addis, which is of course the headquarters of the AU, because I'm increasingly concerned about several crisis spots in Africa and this is a good opportunity to go to the AU which is deeply involved in all of them, and to take stock where we are and to try and help move the international efforts forward on each of those.

The one that is perhaps most obscure from people's point of view is the one that, actually, the United States has been very involved in from the beginning, the one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, going all the way back to 2004 when the President met with South African President Mbeki, with Kagame and Museveni and -- to deal with the problems in the DROC. I think we had a significant impact on that Great Lakes problem. And when I was -- when I met with President Museveni recently (inaudible) in Washington, he suggested that we have a common meeting of states that are involved in that (inaudible) Eastern Congo. So I will speak with the heads of state of the countries involved. I think the Foreign Minister there is from Rwanda because they had an internal agenda such that President Kagame wasn't able to make the meeting.

So the DROC, and of course Somalia, where there are concerns. But it will give me an opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister of Somalia, someone who I think is trying to reach out to all the parties, and to speak with President (inaudible) also. I think he'll be concerned about moving forward with the international presence so that Ethiopia can begin to withdraw.

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And then of course, Sudan. And I just talked with Ban Ki-moon about his concerns about getting a UN hybrid court going. So those are the three issues that we need to we will be working on in Ethiopia. And then of course, we go on to the NATO ministerial, which is a long scheduled ministerial, (inaudible) on the agenda. So that's (inaudible).

QUESTION: Can we start with Africa?


QUESTION: Can I just -- on Sudan, (inaudible)?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I have a couple of concerns about about Sudan. One, is Darfur of course, which I just talked to Ban Ki-moon, because obviously communities, having agreed to move forward, have been holding that up. But there are also some issues concerning the AU and getting the force ready and getting (inaudible), and that's really what I'll talk about.

But there's also the CPA issue. You may know that I had Salva Kiir in Washington a couple of weeks ago. That is really an agreement that we can't afford to let unravel because everybody's starting to focus on Darfur, but of course the North-South civil war has led to millions of deaths. We don't want to see that unravel, so I'm going to spend some time on that.

QUESTION: I understand that President Bashir's party could be the key interlocutor here and is refusing to send anybody to the meeting in (inaudible).

SECRETARY RICE: That's fine. I think --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY RICE: Look, we have plenty of contact with the Sudanese Government on this issue. They can question Kiir right now because the AU has an important role to play here in what we need to do to get the CPA back on track. And I have some sense of that, but it'll be useful to talk to some of the others about that (inaudible).

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the CPA on track, and also to deal with the (inaudible) which is a complex (inaudible)?

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, I want to go and have some conversations. As I said, we've been having some conversations with Southern Sudan as well as the Government, and we'll come back and make an assessment of -- I wouldn't rule out that we might try another effort.

QUESTION: Do you feel that (inaudible)?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I am concerned that the CPA is not moving forward. And whenever the agreement in the CPA is not moving forward, or something of that complexity is not moving forward, then there's always a chance that it'll start to unravel. And of course, the fact that the Southern Sudanese are not participating in the cabinet at this point and the complication of (inaudible) and in Abiye it doesn't have an answer. So it's a time to intensify our efforts there.

There are also elections that are going to be coming up pretty soon, and so this is just a time to refocus on the CPA. Now, the connection to Darfur, obviously, if the South were to become more uncertain, then that was (inaudible) Darfur. It's also the case that the Southern Sudanese have been very involved in Juba in trying to get the rebels to -- the Darfur rebels to form some kind of united front so that the peace efforts (inaudible) Darfur might move forward. So it's a pretty gnarly set of problems.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Salva Kiir and the Bashir government (inaudible)?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I do think there are issues there, but I think that also it's very clear that there are some significant problems that need to be resolved. And one of the things that we're trying to ascertain through the Southern Sudanese is what would make it possible (inaudible).

QUESTION: (Inaudible) they haven't got enough (inaudible). What (inaudible) and how do you intend to encourage (inaudible)?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's going to take the United States and others to insist that the Sudanese carry through with the obligations that they undertook. If you will remember, we've been skeptical all along because we've been seeing this (inaudible) several times before. I think that Kofi Annan believed that he had an agreement not too long before he left office. It didn't hold. Now, I think Ban Ki-moon is experiencing a similar set of circumstances. So we will be working; I've spoken with other key actors, including states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia that have some influence with the Sudanese Government. And we're just going to have to remove these obstacles and get on with it.

Now, some of it is a force generation problem in the (inaudible). There are just a lot of (inaudible). But that's the kind of concessions that I need to make. And I expect that when I come back, I'll sit down with John Negroponte, who has worked with (inaudible) another effort on all of these (inaudible).

QUESTION: Somalia?


QUESTION: (Inaudible.)


QUESTION: (Inaudible) want to finish up (inaudible). I'm sure Sue wants to ask about Iran.


QUESTION: On Somalia, then on Ethiopia-Eritrea (inaudible) less than 24 hours after --


QUESTION: -- (inaudible) a day old.

SECRETARY RICE: It's not the most -- it is not the easiest situation in Somalia, but when has it been? You know, at least there's a chance. And Somali leadership is going to have to really reach out to all elements that are not associated with terrorist groups. It's going to have to be broad. And that's really my message to the Prime Minister is that he's going to have to find a way to broaden his base of support.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) bridge the gap between that and (inaudible)?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the extremists are going to have to be set aside. The problem is not to call everybody extremists who's in the opposition. He needs to really make that division between people who really are extremists and people who might be willing to come into the government. And I don't want to press too far ahead on that. Let me talk to the Prime Minister and see what his thoughts are. I think everybody believes that he is himself a reasonable man to have (inaudible) authority.

QUESTION: There are groups he can deal with?

SECRETARY RICE: There should be. They're going to have to --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) identified them yet?

SECRETARY RICE: It's pretty clear that there are members of what were called the Courts, the Islamic Courts, what were called the Islamic Courts, that are not given over to extremism. I think it's going to be finding those elements.

As to Eritrea and Ethiopia, as you know, we've supported the (inaudible) we believe there ought to be open discussions at the time that they get to the demarcation phase.

QUESTION: Right. It seems to be (inaudible). Tensions are rising. There are troops building up on both sides. Are you concerned at all (inaudible) that Meles insists (inaudible)?

SECRETARY RICE: I take him at his word.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) On Somalia as well (inaudible).

SECRETARY RICE: I think that situation is something I think a little bit different. And look, we've got to -- everybody -- we don't need a use of force here to deal with what is obviously a significant border problem and one where the delineation (inaudible) needs to be thought of as a point from which people can have significant discussions, because the demarcation is one that (inaudible).

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Do you -- does the United States support a military (inaudible)? Are you having (inaudible) trying to bring him in (inaudible)?

SECRETARY RICE: It's a really fluid situation and we're watching it very carefully.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, we can talk for hours.

QUESTION: Hours and hours.

SECRETARY RICE: I thought you might want to (inaudible). (Laughter.) But it is refreshing. We actually talked about (inaudible). You were right.

QUESTION: I told you (inaudible).

QUESTION: (Inaudible) action or international action against Iran. NIE estimates have come out which indicates that Iran is not necessarily a threat. Does this change your strategy, and how do you deal with (inaudible)? Will you push hard for a third sanction (inaudible)?

SECRETARY RICE: I continue to see Iran as a dangerous power in international politics. And I think it's very important to be precise about what the NIE says. The NIE said that they have halted -- and it's the committee's assessment, but they have halted their nuclear weapons program that was apparently a military covert program. That's the first one.

Secondly, that they apparently did that in response to international pressure, and I think a pretty concerted effort by the international community to prevent Iran from having nuclear programs that they apparently were engaged in.

Thirdly, that the civilian enrichment program which we all know is continuing. And of course, the concern that we've always had and have had for some time is that once you solve the enrichment and reprocessing engineering problem, then you are able to use enrichment and reprocessing technology to enrich to higher and higher levels. And remember that enrichment at lower levels, learning to solve the problem at lower levels, allows you then to have the technology or technological know-how to enrich at higher levels. So I think there is great concern that should still be there about the civilian enrichment and reprocessing program.

What this says to me is that we've got the right strategy in place, which is one that really focuses on the diplomacy, really focuses on using diplomatic tools and diplomatic pressure, because apparently Iran has been in the past susceptible to that. It has changed course as a result of (inaudible).

And lastly, that we need to continue to do everything that we can to stop them from being able to perfect this enrichment and reprocessing capability because that's kind of the long pole in the tent -- the ability to get fissile material. There are three elements (inaudible) to obtaining a nuclear weapons program. One is to be able to get the fissile material, which is what the enrichment and reprocessing allows you to do. Secondly, to have a means of delivery. Thirdly, the missile program is clearly continuing and continues apace. And the third is to be able to weaponize it. And it's the third portion that apparently -- what they apparently halted in 2003 and that there is a (inaudible) do that again.

So what it says to me is that it puts a premium on diplomatic efforts against the enrichment and reprocessing program. In that sense, it's good news because it does mean that you've got the -- it's an urgent problem, but it says to me that you do have the time, if this estimate is right, to make the diplomacy work. But it doesn't mean that you should take the pressure off that the diplomacy is bringing and that is apparently having some effect.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Chinese and Russians (inaudible)? I mean, you say for months and months and months, years even, we need a third resolution now, and now (inaudible) well, there is a little bit more time (inaudible).

SECRETARY RICE: Well, what I mean is that there is time for diplomacy to work, but there isn't time to -- there isn't time to stop and say we don't need the diplomacy. So what I'm going to say to my colleagues and have been saying to them is, look, we've got the right strategy, it's the two-track strategy. On the one hand, keep up the pressure on Iran to make them make a different choice about enrichment and reprocessing, because that's really the long pole in the tent. Secondly, we have the opening there for them should they take the path of negotiation. And that two-track strategy is what we've been pursuing. We've been pursuing it because we were concerned about the enrichment and reprocessing program. Let's not wait until we've realized that they've solved the enrichment and reprocessing problem. Let's--

QUESTION: (Inaudible) strategy (inaudible) the timing may change?

SECRETARY RICE: No, the timing can't change. I think the timing has got to be, if they're continuing this enrichment and reprocessing program, the timing has got to be continued pursuit of Security Council resolutions, including other pressures that we're bringing to bear so that they don't acquire the fissile material because the scenario by which they acquire the fissile material and then turn that to (inaudible) for purpose (inaudible) military program, is one that we really can't afford.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) more time (inaudible) military action against (inaudible)? What does that mean? Could you explain what you mean?

SECRETARY RICE: What it means is that at this moment there does not appear to be an active weaponization program. That's really the -- what the -- they halted the active weaponization program. That, frankly, is good news, I think. But if it causes people to say, oh, then we don't need to worry about what the Iranians are doing, I think will have made a big mistake. Because what they are doing is continuing the enrichment and reprocessing activities. In fact, as far as we can tell, trying to perfect them, trying to go to 3,000 centrifuges, trying to get to the place that that capability is -- that the problems of that capability are solved. And we can't afford to have them solve that problem, that technical problem and allow them to enrich and reprocess so that they can build the fissile material to then return to a -- turn back to (inaudible).

QUESTION: (Inaudible) make it easier for Iran to (inaudible)?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I would say to the Iranians take the opening that has been there for you to suspend the fuel -- work on the fuel cycle, which is what everybody is worried about. That's always been the issue here. And let's sit down and talk about how you can have a civil nuclear program, if that's in fact what you want, a civil nuclear program that doesn't raise a proliferation risk that enrichment and reprocessing do. That's what I would say to the Iranians.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) come up in Brussels (inaudible) meeting Sergey Lavrov (inaudible)?

SECRETARY RICE: No, no, quite the opposite. Because first of all, as I said, look, it is good news that the assessment is correct; that they're not actively pursuing a weaponization program. That's (inaudible). Secondly, it is good news that international pressure has worked in the past and that we have a strategy for international pressure to deny them of the technological capability that would lead to fissile material.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) saying to the Russians and the Chinese and (inaudible) German Foreign Ministry (inaudible) that you can use this to turn their argument and say, look, if you're really serious about this, let's do the third resolution because it works. Look what happened back in (inaudible).

SECRETARY RICE: First of all, because it clearly worked, the Iranians are responsive. Okay?

QUESTION: Right, right. Is that what you --

SECRETARY RICE: This is, I think the NIE said something about being able to assess costs and benefits, right?


SECRETARY RICE: So we've got a strategy that shows them the costs and it shows them the benefits. If they're capable of, according to this NIE, of assessing costs and benefits, let's stay on a track that allows us to carry that through.

I would also say -- as I said, it's good news that they're not pursuing currently a weaponization program. But the time is not on the side -- time is not on our side in terms of the enrichment capability. That's where time is not on our side. And that's why the urgency is still there.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) on Saturday (inaudible) actually make some progress (inaudible). Can you elaborate (inaudible)?

SECRETARY RICE: I frankly think that the impact of the last meeting with Javier Solana and Jalili has had an effect because there was hope that that might be a signal from the Iranians that it's going to carry -- you know, that they were prepared to (inaudible) or they said something about new ideas (inaudible) and it didn't materialize. And I think that was -- we saw that impact in the Saturday meeting.

But Nick is focused with all of his counterparts. I've spoken with most of mine.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. I've spoken with most of mine. I haven't been able to reach everybody.

QUESTION: And you haven't seen any (inaudible)?

SECRETARY RICE: People need an opportunity to absorb what they've heard. We are being completely transparent about what the intelligence assessment says, and people need a chance to read it and assess it. But, I think when they do that, and they read it in a -- with detail and nuance, that they will be able to see the points that I've stated, which is that if you look at the good news and think, all right, there is a strategy that can work here because if the Iranians are assessing costs and benefits, we've certainly given them a way to assess both. And we know that pressure has worked in the past and we know that it caused them to do something very important. Now let's use our collective efforts to cause them to take the next important step, which is to prevent the fuel cycle from giving them the ability to get fissile material. And if we can do that, we will have put this in a very, very good place. So, actually, I think this is a -- this is an opportunity.

QUESTION: Just to clarify.


QUESTION: When you say people need time to absorb it, you mean in particular the Chinese and the Russians?

SECRETARY RICE: No, I just mean everybody -- I'm sure people know how to read. (Laughter.) No, I don't just mean the Chinese and the Russians. I mean everyone. But I think when they read it, and read it in its -- you know, not the headlines, but what the assessment is really saying, that people will be affirmed in a strategy that is diplomatic, that puts diplomacy first, but that puts diplomacy that can show both cost and benefits at the core of what we're trying to do.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY RICE: Look, there is no way that the United States should permit the Iranians to use the international financial system for illicit purposes. And that's what the designation with the IRGC and the Quds Force were about.

Intelligence isn't a onetime event. There's an ongoing effort to collect and get better intelligence, and in fact I think the intelligence agencies are to be congratulated for the continuing efforts that they've been making against a very hard target, to understand better what was (inaudible) develop sources of information and to be able to make them available. So you know, and when they did, we felt it was very important that (inaudible) 2005 (inaudible) to make this as widely available as possible.

QUESTION: Were you surprised by it?

SECRETARY RICE: I'm never surprised by what people find about hard target nuclear weapons programs. It's an ongoing process. But I'm glad that we were able to get it and we were able to get it out, and I think it's a very sober and comprehensive look at this issue.

MR. MCCORMACK: All right, guys.

QUESTION: Thank you.

Released on December 6, 2007


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