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Interview on ABC This Week With George Stephanopoulos

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
April 30, 2006

QUESTION: Good morning, everyone. We begin today with the Secretary of State and she's just back from another whirlwind tour. If it's Sunday, it must be Washington.

SECRETARY RICE: Good morning. It must be Washington, finally.

QUESTION: Let's begin with Iran. Since the IAEA, International Atomic Energy Agency, filed their report on Friday against Iran's nuclear program, they've made two moves over the weekend, at least two announcements. So one spokesperson said they're willing to accept spot inspections of their facilities. Another said they're willing to talk about this proposal that the Russians have put on the table about having enrichment of uranium take place in Russia, not Iran.

Are these substantive proposals or stalling tactics?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we have heard from Iran every time they get close to a Security Council decision; there's some effort to say, oh no, we really were, in fact, interested in that proposal that we rejected just a few weeks ago, or no, now the IAEA can come. They've had plenty of time to cooperate.

QUESTION: So they're playing games?

SECRETARY RICE: I think they're playing games. But obviously, if they're not playing games, they should come clean, they should stop the enrichment, suspend the enrichment. They should answer the list of demands that were in the IAEA Board of Governors resolution and in the presidential statement of the Security Council, and then they can get back to negotiations. So the path for Iran is very clear and the path by which they could get civil nuclear energy is also very clear.

QUESTION: Meanwhile, the United States is going to start on the path toward sanctions in the UN Security Council this week, start talking to the allies. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell was in London this morning talking about that and he said there's very limited sanctions that are really possible right now. And he went on to say this:

"The Iranians have looked at this very carefully and they have examined their situation and they have decided to go forward even in the face of potential sanctions, which suggests to me that they have pretty much decided that they can accept whatever sanctions are coming their way."

Is he right?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we'll see. Because I do know also that the Iranians are doing everything that they can to get this out of the Security Council. One of the things that they said is let's put this back in the IAEA, this really doesn't belong in the Security Council, which suggests to me that they are indeed somewhat concerned that the Security Council might move to the kinds of measures that could further isolate Iran.

QUESTION: But Russia and China still aren't there.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we're going to take this one step at a time. The Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nick Burns will be traveling this week to talk with the political directors about how we move forward. We can't just go back and have another presidential statement, so it's likely that we will try to move to a Chapter 7 resolution, which is a resolution in the UN that compels behavior from a member-state.

At that point, we can then look to see what measures might be taken. But the international community's credibility is at stake here and we have a choice, too: We can either mean what we say when we say that Iran must comply or we can continue to allow Iran to defy.

QUESTION: In that interview, Secretary Powell also said that before the Iraq war he advised the President and his military advisors to put more troops on the ground. And when you were in Britain a couple of week ago, you were speaking figuratively but you said we've made a thousand mistakes before. Was that one of them, not following Secretary Powell's advice?

SECRETARY RICE: The President listened to the advice of his advisors and ultimately he listened to the advice of his commanders, the people who actually had to execute the war plan. And he listened to them several times. When the war plan was put together, it was put together also with consideration of what would happen after Saddam Hussein was actually overthrown, and General Tommy Franks, of course through Secretary Rumsfeld, made a proposal to the President for the right number of troops for the plan, and that's what he followed.

QUESTION: You were in Iraq this week with Secretary Rumsfeld and there's talk now of troop reductions, troop withdrawals. After you left, the Iraqi National Security advisor Muwafaq al-Rubaie actually laid out a conditional timetable for withdrawal. I want to show you what he said:

"By the end of this year the number of multinational forces or the coalition forces probably would be less than 100,000, by the end of next year the overwhelming majority of the coalition would have left the country, and probably by middle of 2008 there will be no foreign soldier in the country."

No foreign soldiers in 2008. I know you've said and the President has said that any withdrawals are going to be based on security conditions, but how realistic is that timetable?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we talked with the Iraqi leadership during this recent trip last week and they want to be able to take responsibility for their own security and we want them to be able to take responsibility. They recognize, though, that their security forces are not quite ready. Their security forces are --

QUESTION: So that's a little too optimistic?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't know if it's optimistic. Let's get their security forces ready, let's see what they're capable of doing. They are taking more territory themselves. They are taking on more responsibility, for instance, for the highway between the airport and the international zone, which they've done in some ways better than we did. They've been able to secure it better than we did.

So we will take this a step at a time. The President has made very clear that he's going to listen to his commanders for what troop levels are needed. We're going to train Iraqi security forces as rapidly as possible. And most importantly, we're going to continue to put this in a political context in which the Iraqi Government drains support for insurgency by the fact that they are indeed a national unity government. And those elements together should allow more responsibility to Iraqis and less responsibility to coalition forces over the next several months.

QUESTION: What is going to trigger, though, the first reductions, this next plan of 30- or 40,000 troops? What's it going to take? Will simply forming a government be enough?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I think forming a government is an important step but we also have to look at the security situation on the ground. Now, we're doing different kinds of things than we were doing earlier in this conflict. The training of security forces is one of the most important things that our forces are doing on the ground. We are still doing some, as we would call it, kinetic or active military operations against the terrorists, as we did just this last couple of days in Ramadi. But more and more, Iraqis are taking a lot more responsibility for patrols, taking a lot more responsibility for security in places like Baghdad. When I actually had to travel the road during my previous trip to Iraq because of weather, you notice that there are Iraqi forces, Iraqi soldiers, along those roads. And so I think that everybody wants to make sure that what we're doing is matching the forces to the conditions and to the demands on the ground.

QUESTION: Let's talk about the situation in Darfur, the Sudan. You and the President described it as a genocide. The UN reported this week there had been 200,000 more refugees just in the last couple months. Rallies all across the United States today to focus more attention on this issue and there's a deadline for the peace talks.

I know that you and the entire government have been frustrated for some time that you haven't been able to get agreement on a peacekeeping force. The Sudanese Government hasn't agreed to that. Is it time to take more forceful action?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we are taking forceful action in really pressing the case now that UN forces, a UN blue-hatted mission, is going to have to be put together which could then support -- be supported by NATO, which might be willing -- will be willing, I think, to give logistical support and intelligence support and perhaps mobility support. Everybody understands that we're not talking about Western forces on the ground. The political dynamic, I think, would not allow that.

QUESTION: But those forces still require the acceptance of the Sudanese Government. They have been stalling. At what point does the United States, does the international community, say we don't care if they're going to accept it anymore, we have to go in and stop this genocide.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we are going to continue to press the Sudanese Government and we're continuing to not just talk to them but, of course, we're taking some actions against those in the Sudanese Government who are responsible for this. Just last week --

QUESTION: Only four individuals.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, but it's four individuals who now know that their role in this terrible crisis is being noted by the international community and, if necessary, we will do more. We also do need more support, frankly, from other members of the international community, from China, from Russia, which abstained on this resolution.

And I was at NATO on Thursday and Friday. We had a talk about getting more support from the African Union, which has said that they want to see a UN force. I might just also note that I've been discussing -- talked on the phone this morning with people who have been following the Abuja talks and there is some progress being made in the Abuja talks. Obviously --

QUESTION: So will they extend the deadline?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, obviously, a peace agreement would be a very important step forward in getting this done. I don't know if they will extend, but there clearly has been some progress and the United States has been one of the most active states in doing this.

But, George, let me just say, the President has passion about this issue. You can see it when he talks about it. We cannot be in a situation in which we don't react to this, and the United States has been at the lead in humanitarian relief, we've been at the lead in pushing for -- with Kofi Annan for a UN force, we've been at the lead at trying to get NATO to be responsive to what the AU may need, and we've been in the lead in helping the existing AU forces on the ground. We will continue to be very active in our diplomacy in Abuja and very active in our diplomacy with the international community.

QUESTION: Finally, while you were overseas, the issue of gas prices exploded here at home this week, and several senators say that part of the reason for the high prices is that the oil-producing nations in OPEC are basically an illegal cartel and they've asked the President to take action against those nations through the World Trade Organization. Are you for that?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, what we're for is getting and keeping production up. And the countries that are oil producers have pretty good incentive at this point to produce, given the high prices.

QUESTION: The high prices.

SECRETARY RICE: And they also have an incentive recognizing that if there's a slowdown in the international economy that there will be less need eventually for oil. But we have both a long-term problem and a short-term problem. The short-term problem we are seeing, we're seeing at the gas pump. The President outlined some measures to try to deal with that. He's obviously attentive to whether or not there is any manipulation or gouging through processes that are available to examine that.

But he also has talked about the long-term needs. We need to reduce our reliance on oil. We need to diversify the basis of our energy economy. We need to deal with the long-term promise of technologies that may get us out of this trap. But I can tell that if anything has surprised me as Secretary of State, it is the degree to which the kind of search for hydrocarbons is distorting international politics. That means that the quicker we get about the business of reducing our reliance on oil, the better we're going to be.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you very much.



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