U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Interview With Reuters and Agence France-Presse (U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE) Washington, DC 02/01/05 (4:35 p.m. EST)
U.S. STATE DEPT.
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QUESTION: Thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us. I
think we all appreciate it. To start with the Middle East, then,
looking ahead to your trip: Palestinian President Abbas has, you
know, as we all know, deployed security forces in Gaza, but they
don´t seem to have actually done very much to go after any of the
militants, who seem to be in a truce of their own sort of making. And
yesterday the security forces failed to stop the mortar attacks on a
number of Israeli settlements. Do you believe Abbas has the will, let
alone the capability, to actually go after these Palestinian
SECRETARY RICE: Well, let´s just step back and look at where we are
in the Middle East because we are clearly more hopeful that certain
steps will be more helpful: The Palestinian election of President
Abbas and the Israeli decision for the Gaza withdrawal. There are a
lot of circumstances that are coming into place that should give us
greater opportunity to progress back onto the roadmap and then,
hopefully, on to a two state solution.
It´s obviously extremely important that the Palestinians take
seriously the obligations that they undertook in the roadmap -- to
fight terror, to unify their security forces, to use their security
forces, to make certain that no terrorist acts take place on their
territory, and I think they have made some progress in this regard.
It´s not perfect, but they have made some progress. And there are
good discussions going on between the Israelis and the Palestinians
about how to move forward on some of the security concerns.
And what I hope to do when I go there is to try and sustain -- help
to sustain the momentum that they have clearly developed over the
last several weeks. There is a lot of work to be done on the
Palestinian security forces. They have to be unified. They have to be
put under central control. They have to be better equipped and
trained. All of those are elements with which the United States can
be helpful, as well as other countries in the region like Egypt or
And so we have a long way to go to fully capable Palestinian security
forces but there also has to be a will. And I do think that Abbas
showed will in acting quickly. We hope they´ll continue to act and to
act more effectively over the next few weeks.
QUESTION: If I can just follow up on that. One of the remarks that´s
been made is that Abbas needs some gestures from the Israelis to
bolster his credibility with the Palestinians, particularly the
militant groups. Do you see -- at what point do you see that Israel
would have to make some gesture, with either the wall or prisoners
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the determination to fight terror and to
reestablish law and order is something that the Palestinians need to
SECRETARY RICE: And I think they understand that because one of the
problems has been lawlessness in the Palestinian territories that
has -- there´s been great suffering of the Palestinian people from
that lawlessness. And so the unification of the security forces and
the use of security forces is going to be good for the Palestinians,
as well as for the Israelis.
The Israelis have made clear, I think, that they are prepared, for
instance, to begin to turn over towns to the Palestinians, as they
are able to perform security functions. So that is the kind of -- I
won´t call it a gesture -- that´s the kind of move by the Israelis
that I think should give some confidence to the Palestinians that
they are going to eventually be in control of their own affairs; that
there will be a partnership here between Israel and the Palestinians
for moving forward for security for both the Israelis and for the
I´m certain that they will have many discussions about the issues
that you raised about how to think about prisoners, how to think
about opening of checkpoints. We have asked the Israelis frequently
to do whatever they can to improve mobility for the Palestinians, to
remove checkpoints where possible, because mobility is, of course, an
issue for Palestinian livelihood, for people to be able to work and
to, to carry out just the daily tasks of life. And so mobility is
another area in which, as this moves forward and as the security
improves that you would hope there would be -- the Israelis would be
QUESTION: Can we move to your trip to Europe?
SECRETARY RICE: Sure. Of course.
QUESTION: So you´ll be in London the day after tomorrow. Could you
give us a, kind of, maybe, a preview of the speech you are going to
deliver in Paris next week? And why did you choose Paris for this
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I´ll come back to the speech. And I -- I don´t
want to preempt my own speech (laughter) but I´ll come back to the
QUESTION: Just an idea.
SECRETARY RICE: I´ll come back to the speech. It fits into the
context of the larger trip.
This is an opportunity to go to Europe to talk about the agenda that
we have before us, to talk about the great causes that we have before
us. The -- this great alliance, which has first stood the test of
time in winning the Cold War, then expanding to the freed nations of
Eastern Europe, and now is standing the test of time in the war
against terrorism. This great alliance that has faced very grave
threats now faces really remarkable opportunities in the world. And I
want to go to talk about those opportunities: The opportunity to
support the parties in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to try and
find a two state solution; the opportunity to see the spread of
democracy and freedom in places where it´s never taken hold before,
and the evidence that we´re seeing that the values are, indeed,
universal. When we see what happens in Afghanistan when people line
up for miles and miles and miles on dusty roads and walk for miles in
order to vote, or in Iraq where they vote despite the threats and the
intimidation and the violence; and to have an opportunity to talk
about how we support the people of the broader Middle East that are
now seeking the blessings of liberty that we all enjoy.
I hope to talk about the fact that we also share an obligation to try
and build great prosperity. We´ve had many discussions, for instance,
in the G-8 about how to work with a development agenda that looks at
foreign assistance, but foreign assistance that is going to countries
that are involved in good governance and care about the health and
education of their people and fight corruption. And so that´s another
element of the opportunity, of course.
So the reason to go to Europe at this point is that we have number of
meetings coming up. The President will go there. We have a G-8
ministerial with the Arab League. We have a number of meetings coming
up. And I would hope that we are going to begin to further unite
around a common agenda for the next several years, one that is firmly
rooted in our values, our shared values; one that is aware of the
challenges that we face in nonproliferation and in proliferation of
weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, but that´s also ready to
take advantage fully of these historic opportunities before us to
build a different kind of Middle East; and the speech in Paris, I
think, will make that argument that we are looking at a time of
opportunity with this alliance.
QUESTION: Even though, as you say, that there are great opportunities
before the alliance and the United States, there are also irritants
that remain. The Europeans are about lift the arms embargo on China,
which some people in this town feel is a real problem for the
alliance. Are you resigned, as some other officials are, that this is
going to happen? Do you see any way that the Europeans can fashion
their code of conduct so that it´s satisfactory to the United States
and will mitigate the fact that the embargo is being lifted?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, fortunately, we´ve had good dialogue about this
matter of the arms embargo. And I think at this point, we´re -- we
need to continue to discuss it and to continue to understand why this
is a problem for the United States, and to understand the European
motivations for wanting to go down this road.
I have to say that in a circumstance in which the embargo was levied,
because of human rights concerns out of Tiananmen, one has to be very
careful not to send the wrong signal about human rights. And of
course, we do have concerns about the strategic military
considerations of doing so. So I think we´re not resigned to
anything. I think at this point we need to continue to discuss it and
work it out.
QUESTION: One other thing. There´s been talk in Congress of some sort
of retaliatory action if, in fact, the Europeans do this, the United
States would somehow circumvent or impose restrictions on transfers
to Europe. Do you see that -- is that something the Administration
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I wouldn´t want to speculate. I think at this
point we still need to continue to discuss this. I´ve found the
Europeans open to our concerns and willing to try to understand them.
And so we´ll see how we can address it, but I don´t want to speculate
on what might happen if the arms embargo is lifted.
QUESTION: If I can go back just to your speech again a second, from
Paris, there. I don´t think I´d be telling you anything new if I said
that probably two things the Europeans are interested to hear from
you is (a) what is an exit strategy from Iraq, because either they
opposed it or a lot of them are under pressure to get out? And (b)
what sort of assurances that you would give that you wouldn´t launch
a venture like that again without more, what they consider more
consultation on the international level? Do you have anything to
offer on either of those two points today?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I would hope that we´re all at the point that
we want a success strategy in Iraq, a strategy that is going to leave
an Iraq that is stable and on the path to democracy. Yes, there were
differences about whether or not it was time to hold the regime of
Saddam Hussein accountable for 12 years of defiance of the
international community. I don´t think there was much disagreement
that Saddam Hussein was a horrible presence in the Middle East and
that there was much disagreement -- or that there is much
disagreement that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in
And so if we start from that point of agreement rather than going
back to look at the question of the timing of the decision, we all
have to now unite around a road to a stable Iraq, an Iraq that is no
longer a weapons of mass destruction threat, that´s no longer a
threat to its neighbors, and that is democratic. And what we saw
Sunday was that Iraqis themselves are willing to literally --
ordinary Iraqis -- literally risk their lives for the vote.
And that should remind all of us who are lucky enough to have been --
to be on the right side of the freedom divide, that we have an
obligation to them to support the efforts that they are making now to
build that democratic future. And so I don´t think we want to talk in
terms of exit strategies. Of course the goal is to have a self-
sufficient Iraq that can sustain itself in terms of its security as
well as all other aspects of its political life.
We are -- the coalition is there under UN auspices, UN resolution.
There is a mechanism provided for continued discussions with the
Iraqis about the status of those forces. And I´m sure that we will
have discussions with the new Iraqi Government once it´s in place
about the right mix of coalition forces, Iraqi security forces, to be
able to make Iraq secure. So I don´t think of it as an -- I just
don´t think we should use the term "exit strategy." I think we should
ask ourselves, what can we do now to, as quickly as possible, make
the Iraqis self-sufficient, but to also give them the support that
they need to build a stable and democratic Iraq. They have certainly
demonstrated on Sunday that they have earned our support by the
willingness to go out and face down the terrorists.
QUESTION: Do you think that the rift that there was over the Iraq war
between the United States and some of the European allies is now a
thing of the past? Or is your vision still aimed at repairing ties?
SECRETARY RICE: I really believe that everyone understands that it´s
the future that matters here. The -- there were differences. That´s
certainly obviously to everyone. But again, I don´t think anyone
differed on the fact that it would be -- you would rather have a
stable and democratic Iraq than one ruled by the brutal dictator,
Saddam Hussein, threatening his neighbors, skimming money from the
Oil-for-Food program at the expense of his own people, and with an
unbreakable tie to his love of weapons of mass destruction. I don´t
think anybody would disagree that it´s better to have an Iraq that
can be on the path to democracy than an Iraq ruled by Saddam Hussein.
So I think we look forward from here on. And I really believe that
the elections and what the Iraqi people demonstrated in those
elections gives us a new opportunity as an international community to
rally around them. Now, I don´t there to be great changes in what
people are willing to do. I think there has been an evolution of
that, anyway. You have the Germans training police in the UAE. You
have a NATO training mission for the leadership. I think you will
find, you know, you had debt relief from the allies, which was a huge
agreement from the point of view of the Iraqis; and so there´s been a
steady evolution anyway of help to the Iraqis; and I just think that
you´ll continue to see that.
QUESTION: The election has obviously changed the context in the
region as well. And that makes me think about Iran and the
relationship the United States will have with Iran. Indeed, Europe is
lobbying for more involvement. Do you think there´s any possibility
for U.S. engagement with Iran?
SECRETARY RICE: What we need with Iran is unity of purpose and unity
of message to Iran about what is expected of Iran. And I, frankly,
think we´re getting that because the Iranians are being told across
the board that they cannot be responsible members of the
international community and seek nuclear weapons under cover of a
civilian nuclear program, that that´s not acceptable.
The Europeans have embarked on an effort, which we greatly
appreciate, to try and get the Iranians to live up to their
international obligations. Anyone who can get them to live up to
their international obligations -- that´s a good thing. But the
Iranians know what they need to do, and there really is only one
answer. And that is live up to their obligations under the NPT and
for signing additional protocols.
QUESTION: So with Iran, the European negotiations, do they frustrate
your goal of getting Iran to the Security Council? Or do you fully
support what they are trying to do and that can put your tactic on
hold for getting them to the Security Council?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the possibility of taking Iran to the Security
Council continues to exist. And our view is that Iran will have to be
held accountable for its noncompliance with its international
obligations. But again, if we -- any way that we can get compliance --
true compliance -- with the Iranians is helpful. We´ve been in close
coordination with the Europeans. We´ve made clear that we hope for
the best. But the Iranians have not demonstrated over time that
they´ve been doing good on living up to their international
obligations. We´ll see.
QUESTION: About a country that you´re not going to go to next week:
Russia -- is the United States, is the Bush Administration engaged in
a review of its policy towards Russia? And what, realistically, can
the U.S. Government do to try to prevent the Kremlin from going back
on democratic reforms, from interfering with its neighbors, from
prosecutions of, this is one, of Mr. Khodorkhovsky that appear to be
sort of politically motivated?
SECRETARY RICE: There is no systematic review, new systematic review
going on. We´re constantly looking at the policies and trying to
determine where we go from here. And of course, the President has a
meeting coming up with President Putin, so of course we´re looking at
where we are in the relationship in regard to that.
The Russian situation is a complicated one, of course. On the one
hand, we do have productive relations with the Russians on a number
of fronts. We have productive relations in the war on terrorism with
the Russians, counterterrorism. We have cooperated well with the
Russians in Afghanistan, which I think might not have been expected
given the history there. We continue to work with the Russians, or
look forward to working with the Russians on some of the more
difficult situations in the Caucasus, like, for instance, the Nagorno-
So there are lots of areas in which we have productive relations. We
want to be supportive of the Russians´ efforts to get into the WTO
when they have met the conditions because we think that the
liberalization of the Russian economy under WTO rules would be a good
thing for the international community.
Obviously, on the other hand, it has been a difficult period in terms
of Russia´s move toward democracy. It´s been uneven. It´s not the
Soviet Union and that´s a good thing. This is not a return to the
Soviet Union. Nonetheless, we´ve been very clear with the Russians
that the concentration of power in the Kremlin, at the expense of
other institutions, is a problem because you need -- in democratic
development, you need countervailing institutions. You can´t just
have a powerful presence.
Our goal has been to continue to talk to the Russians about this and
to be clear that the deepening of relations for which we all hope,
really would only take place on the basis of common values. It
doesn´t mean that we can´t have productive relations, but the kind of
relationship in which, really deepening of relations, that would
require greater democratization in Russia.
We also are doing what we can to support the development of civil
society in Russia because the weakness of parties in civil society is
one of the problems in Russia. And we´ve been saying to the Russians
that the issues concerning rule of law are, of course, important from
the point of view of democracy, but they´re also important from the
point of view of developing business relationships. So we´re trying
to take a comprehensive view of the U.S.-Russian relationship to work
on the areas where there are problems and to continue a productive
relationship where we can.
QUESTION: Your dialogue with them so far, however, does not really
seem to have had much, if any, effect, for example, on the
Khodorkovsky case or the breakup of Yukos, or on the decision as far
as provincial assemblies and how governments are chosen, and so on,
or vis-ŗ-vis their neighbors. I mean, President Putin came out and
all but embraced Mr. Yanukovych for his victory in what was literally
a fraudulent, rigged election. I mean, so to go back to the question,
what can you actually do if gentle suasion isn´t working?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, you can certainly stand on principle. And in
the case of Ukraine standing on principle worked. In Georgia, we
stood on principle. And standing on principle worked. And now, I
think you´ve seen that Russia has begun to recognize that what
happened in Ukraine was a victory for the Ukrainian people and Mr.
Yuschenko is reaching out to the Russians; they´re reaching out to
him. We want Russia and Ukraine to have good relations, they´re
neighbors. They´ve had a long, long history together.
And it´s a good thing that the United States and Europe, having stood
on principle and having refused to accept a fraudulent election,
ended up with the circumstances, circumstances now we think the
Russians have accepted.
So I wouldn´t say that we´ve been unable to affect some of these
outcomes. Clearly, we and Europe, and most importantly, the Ukrainian
people, were able to affect the outcome in Ukraine.
QUESTION: And can I just turn to --
SECRETARY RICE: Well, in terms of Russian domestic affairs,
obviously, there you have to make your arguments and continue to make
your arguments and sketch a shadow of the future should things not
improve. But we are doing what we can do, and I do think that the --
helping the development of democratizing forces in Russia, like civil
society, will ultimately have an effect there, as well as the
liberalization of the Russian economy and the development of a small
business class, which I think could have a quite profound effect on
QUESTION: Is the President likely to say anything or not say anything
in his State of the Union Address that would be what´s needed to
bring North Korea back to the talks? I mean, there are -- Pyongyang,
you know, is looking at --
SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me not refer to the speech itself. Let me
just talk about the North Korea problem and maybe we can look at
that. The North Koreans also know what they need to do. This is,
there´s no secret here. The path that they´re on is not one that is
going to lead to North Korea beginning to enter the international
system. I don´t say reintegrate because itís never been part, so
beginning to enter.
We believe that we have the most effective forum possible in having a
six-party forum in which not just the United States, but the other
neighbors in particular, China, are sending a common message to the
North Koreans about the path ahead. The North Koreans also know, or
should know, that the United States doesn´t intend to invade North
Korea. It doesn´t intend to attack North Korea. The United States has
a good -- has a strong alliance with the ROK that protects and
defends on the Korean Peninsula.
But the idea that somehow the United States is hostilely going to
attack North Korea couldn´t be more farfetched, and they´ve even been
told that in the six-party context there could some kind of assurance
of that. So the path ahead is pretty clear, and I would just hope
that the North Koreans, who we would like to see come back to the six-
party talks, would look at what has been offered to them. We made a
very good proposal at the last round of the six-party talks, and it´s
on the table for the taking.
QUESTION: And can I just follow up then, please?
QUESTION: Can I just follow up right now? I mean, have you gotten --
have the Chinese told you that the North Koreans will come back after
the President speaks? Have they -- do you feel that the Chinese have
put enough pressure on the North Koreans to make this happen?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don´t know that anyone knows the North Korean
mind on this. But I know that the Chinese and others are trying to
convince the North Koreans that it´s time to come back. I do suspect
that they -- there was a kind of hiatus while they waited for us to
go through our elections and all of that. And so, we´ll see. But the
path is pretty clear. And if they choose to come back, then I think
it was productive work to do.
QUESTION: Yeah. My follow up question on that, actually, is: This
process has been going on for a while. I think Mr. ElBaradei said
last year that North Korea was one -- the biggest nuclear
nonproliferation threat. How much time do we have, both with North
Korea and for Iran, while they continue to flout norms, and while
they continue to presumably buildup their capabilities? How much time
do we have before we have to start taking more serious action?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it´s a good point. I think on Iran, for a
variety reasons, I don´t want to put a timeline on it. I don´t think
it would be wise to try to put a timeline on it. But for a variety of
reasons, we´re fairly early in the diplomacy and there are some other
elements that have helped. For instance, the civilian nuclear
cooperation with -- that the Iranians have with the Russians, the
Russians have been clear to the Iranians that they would have to
return the spent fuel.
Now it doesn´t alleviate the proliferation risk, but it makes it less
likely that you could use that civilian nuclear reactor for weapons
production. So you´re getting a number of aspects of -- a number of
states that are doing things, I think, to help with the Iranian --
with the risk on the Iranian side. But sooner rather than later, the
Iranians need to get back into conformance with their international
obligations, they need to get a verification protocol into place, and
they need to stop enriching. That´s the reality.
North Korea, you know, we´ve had assessments going back into the ´90s
that they had enough material for a couple of devices, maybe more,
and the -- we do have a substantial deterrent on the Korean Peninsula
to North Korean aggression of any kind. And the goal here has to be
that you have to do something that´s effective. We thought in 1994
that we had done something that would be effective in stopping the
North Korean nuclear program.
We were able to freeze the plutonium program, but it was rather
frontloaded in terms of benefits to the North Koreans, and the North
Koreans then went down another path, the highly enriched uranium
path. I think that taught us a lesson that a bilateral agreement with
the North Koreans that is frontloaded in that way, where the North
Koreans can unfreeze at any time that they become annoyed with the
international community, is probably not the right way to go.
And so, we have to now go with something more effective. And it´s
true, it´s taken time to build an international consensus or a
neighborhood consensus about the North Korean program. But if we´re
able to get an agreement, we´ll be on much stronger fundamental
ground by having as a six-party agreement, where the North Koreans,
if they violate, would not just violate an agreement with the United
States but also an agreement with their neighbors, including with
So, yes, it´s taken some time, but I think the time is worth it to
create circumstances that might be, in the long term, more effective.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: A couple more minutes, very short. You talked about what we
could do to help the Palestinians get, maintain momentum, and to help
them get control of their security forces. What can you do, more
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we´ll go out there and talk about what can be
done to help. I mean, obviously, the Palestinians are going to need
help in terms of training and equipping their security forces. And
I´m sure that there will be ways that we might be involved in that.
The Palestinians also need to build the democratic institutions that
will be the foundation for a state.
And we´re very much looking forward to the London conference because
I think that there will be a really good conversation there about how
that can be done effectively. And then, ultimately, there is going to
need to be a reconstruction package also for the Gaza, as the
Israelis withdraw, and then later on for the West Bank. And we know,
that the World Bank and others have been doing some work on what kind
of reconstruction plan needs to be put in place. And so, again, at
the London conferences, as Prime Minister Blair and President Bush
said when the Prime Minister was here, you know, those baskets,
security, political reform and economic reconstruction, having plans
that the international community can then help the Palestinians to
execute will be very important.
And finally, I know that the Israelis have said recently that they
are prepared to talk about coordination with the Palestinians on the
Gaza withdrawal. And that, too, is a very important step.
So there are a number of things that I´m sure we´ll be able to do,
and this is a discussion about how to put it together.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. 2005/113 Released on February 1, 2005
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