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Interview on Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
May 21, 2006

QUESTION: Secretary Rice, welcome back to Fox News Sunday.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you, Chris.

QUESTION: President Bush praised the formation of a new Iraqi government, but they failed to agree on three of the most critical posts: the ministers of interior and defense and national security. Fifteen members, Sunnis members of the parliament, walked out. Given these continued deep divisions, can they really end the violence?

SECRETARY RICE: I see this quite the other way, Chris. In fact, what you have is an Iraqi government that is now formed. Yes, they're going to take a few days longer to get right the ministry of interior, the ministry of defense and the national security advisor. The Prime Minister has made very clear to us and to his -- the people in the other parties that he wants to have people in whom he has supreme confidence because of the importance of this. I know, for instance, they were going through extensive interviews with people, extensive background checks with people, because they want to make sure that they have it right. I think it's quite obvious that when you take this kind of time, it shows a kind of determination and maturity.

Secondly, I was just talking with our people in the Embassy and some 90 percent of the parliament is going to support this government. Now, yes, there's a lot of politics going on here. People are dramatizing the fact that they didn't get certain posts that they had hoped to get. But we really need to give this government a chance and we need to recognize that with the very difficult things that they are trying to do, they are making extraordinary progress politically.

QUESTION: I want to show you a report that appeared in the Los Angeles Times this week. Take a look, if you will:

"More Iraqi civilians were killed in Baghdad during the first three months of this year than at any time since the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime -- at least 3,800, many of them found hogtied and shot execution style. Mass gunmen storm into homes and victims, the majority of them Sunnis, are never again seen alive."

Secretary Rice, isn't the sectarian violence getting worse, not better?

SECRETARY RICE: The sectarian violence is clearly now a major problem for Iraq. There's no doubt about that. And in talking with Prime Minister Maliki when Don Rumsfeld and I were there, he focused on the need to reestablish confidence in the police, to reestablish confidence in the ability of the government to deal with this. It's going to be a very important step to begin to disband some of the militias and unauthorized armed groups operating --

QUESTION: Which is why I raise the question. Isn't it very troubling that they couldn't come up with an interior ministry?

SECRETARY RICE: Chris, let's give them three or four days, or five or six days, to come up with the best possible interior ministry. You know, the five days that they will take to vet people more thoroughly, to make sure that they have the right, person, will be well worth it. And I note, too, that Prime Minister Maliki said in comments even today that he is determined to use maximum force to stop the terrorism and the violence against the Iraqi people. This is a strong leader. I've met him. I've looked into his eyes. This is somebody who is determined to do what is right for the Iraqi people. He said to us, to Don and to me, the Iraqi people have had enough, we've now really got to govern effectively. He is demonstrating a kind of focus, he is demonstrating a kind of resolve, because he's now a permanently elected leader, not an interim leader whose job it is to get a constitution or to set up elections, but whose job it is to govern permanently. And I think we need to give him a little breathing space and a little chance here, and I think you're going to see very good things from this government.

QUESTION: Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld says he can't promise that there will be a substantial withdrawal from U.S. troops from Iraq before the end of the year. I want you to take a look at this exchange before a Senate panel this week. Here it is:

Senator Durbin: "Can you tell us that before the end of this calendar year a significant number of American troops will be redeployed out of harm's way in Iraq?"

Secretary Rumsfeld: "No, no one can."

Secretary Rice, after more than three years, why can't U.S. troops start coming home and let Iraqis defend Iraq?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, this is very much in line with what the President has been saying. Of course you can't say that with determination there will be a drawdown because this drawdown has to be conditions-based. So obviously if it's conditions-based --

QUESTION: But by May of this year, I mean, aren't the conditions --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, obviously --

QUESTION: I mean, aren't the conditions proper for us to be able to announce --

SECRETARY RICE: Obviously, Chris, if it's conditions-based, then we are going to work with a new government. Again, we have a new government. How would it be for the United States to say we're going to do this with our forces without ever even consulting with the new government about their plans? Prime Minister Maliki has made clear that he actually wants to accelerate the pace, not just of training of Iraqi security forces but the pace by which Iraqi security forces take more responsibility.

So over the next few weeks, General Casey will sit with the Iraqi Government. They will come up with plans that include what remains to be done, what role Iraqi forces can play in that, what role coalition forces still need to play. But we need to keep our focus on what needs to be done to ultimately leave a foundation for democracy and peace in Iraq. That's why we went there after the toppling of Saddam Hussein. That is what the American people and the Iraqi people expect us to do. And I think it is premature, before we've even had this discussion with the Iraqi Government, to start giving firm commitments on what the drawdown will look like.

QUESTION: The United Nations Committee Against Torture this week criticized the U.S. handling of U.S. terrorism detainees and called for shutting down the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Last week the Attorney General of Britain, perhaps our strongest ally in the war on terror, also called for shutting down Guantanamo, saying that it is "unacceptable." Will the U.S. close down Guantanamo?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, it would have been helpful if the Rapporteur for that report had actually gone to Guantanamo. It's a little difficult to do this by remote control. And we did have a sense that this report, as John Bellinger, who is our Legal Counsel, said, might have been written before we even were given a real opportunity to respond. So yes --

QUESTION: These are ten independent human rights experts.

SECRETARY RICE: No, but -- yes, but it would have been helpful if there had been full assessment because people who go to Guantanamo see quite a different picture. But let's leave that aside and talk about what Guantanamo is there for. Obviously, we don't want to be the world's jailer. We will be delighted when we can cross -- when we can close down Guantanamo. Everybody wants to close down Guantanamo.

But I would ask this: If we do close down Guantanamo, what becomes of the hundreds of dangerous people who were picked up on battlefields in Afghanistan, who were picked up because of their associations with al-Qaida? We do have an obligation, the President has an obligation, to also keep America and, by the way, many of our allies safe by making certain that people don't return to the battlefield.

Obviously, a lot has changed at Guantanamo over the last years. Hundreds of people have been released from Guantanamo. We work almost daily with governments to try to get people returned to their native lands if their governments will take them and give assurances that they are both not going to be mistreated and that they're going to be watched and monitored so that they can't commit crimes again.

This is a different kind of war. We cannot be in a situation in which we are just turning loose on hapless populations or unprotected populations people who have vowed to kill more Americans if they're released.

So I would just ask people to be cognizant of the dilemma here. Absolutely, we want to see the day when Guantanamo can close. Absolutely, we want to see the day when we don't have to play this role. But somebody had better play the role of making certain that dangerous people don't get released back into the population.

QUESTION: I have a series of questions I want to ask you about Iran and let's almost do it as a lightning round, if we can here. There's a report that the U.S. and Europe are now having a disagreement because the Europeans want to offer Iran some kind of security guarantee that the government there will not be overthrown by subversion or outside intervention.

SECRETARY RICE: Chris, I have had multiple meetings with my colleagues, my foreign minister colleagues, including a three-and-a-half-hour session just ten days ago or so. They don't ask us for security guarantees against Iran -- for Iran. I don't know who --

QUESTION: Would we ever consider such a thing?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, let me just set the record straight. We haven't been asked to provide security assurances to Iran. What we are talking about is a package that will make clear to Iran that they are choices to be made, either that there will be sanctions and actions taken against Iran by the international community or there is a way for them to meet their civil nuclear concerns.

But it's obvious that in addition to the nuclear issue we have other issues with Iran. We have a state in Iran that is devoted to the destruction of Israel. We have a state in Iran that meddles in the peace process supporting organizations like --

QUESTION: So directly, because I want to get to this point of would we ever agree to a security guarantee for --

SECRETARY RICE: Chris, you can't take this question out of the context of what Iran is doing in the international system. Iran is a troublemaker in the international system, a central banker of terrorism. Security assurances are not on the table.

QUESTION: You talked about offering Iran a menu of carrots and sticks. Iran's President Ahmadi-Nejad made a speech this week in which he dismissed the idea of accepting incentives to halt its uranium enrichment program, saying, "Do you think you're dealing with a child that you can give chocolate and get gold in return?"

Secretary Rice, given his repeated statements, why are you wasting time coming up with packages for this man?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we would like to show Iran's government and its people that it is possible to have a way out of this crisis, a way out that preserves Iran's ability to have civil nuclear power -- Iran has said that that's what they want, by the way -- and to show them a path into the international community of states and back into good standing. If they won't take it, then we'll have to take the other course.

QUESTION: And you had said you would not allow direct talks between the U.S. Ambassador in Iraq and Iran about Iraqi security until a government was formed. Now a government has been formed. Are you going to allow Ambassador Khalilzad to talk to the Iranians about Iraqi security?

SECRETARY RICE: Look, we will assess the situation and see when such talks might be useful. But we've had those talks in Afghanistan. In fact, the current Ambassador, Ron Neumann, has had talks about the counternarcotics problem in Afghanistan. Zal Khalilzad had these talks when he was in Afghanistan. If it makes sense in Iraq, we'll do it. But we'll assess it based on what makes sense.

QUESTION: One immigration question I want to ask you briefly and then I want to move on to one other thing here. Can you understand -- the Mexican Foreign Minister said if National Guard troops arrest any of the immigrants coming over the border, they're going to sue in U.S. courts?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the President of the United States --

QUESTION: I know, he says they're not going to be doing that.

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, the President has said this isn't for law enforcement.

QUESTION: But can you understand why a lot of Americans would be fed up with the idea that Mexico is upset that we would dare to enforce our border?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, when I talk to my Mexican counterparts as well as to other counterparts, I say: "Start your comments with, 'The United States has the right to defend its borders. The United States has the right to defend its laws.'" You're not going to find a president who has achieved better balance in his immigration policy than this president, who talks about the need for a comprehensive program that both recognizes our tradition as a country of immigrants and our humanitarian concerns about that, and protects our laws. And I think this is the very best that immigrants are going to do and the very best that those who wish to defend the border are going to do.

QUESTION: Finally, a real lightning round. You know the rules: quick answers, quick questions.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, gotcha.

QUESTION: We have an audio clue for you. Listen: (Music playing.)

SECRETARY RICE: I'm going to play it one day.

QUESTION: Well that is me, as a matter of fact, playing Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2.

SECRETARY RICE: Sure, Chris. Yeah.

QUESTION: And you gave a list of the ten best pieces of music to a British newspaper.


QUESTION: And you said that you were determined to play that piece of music before you leave this earth.

SECRETARY RICE: Right. It may take me that long to learn it.

QUESTION: It's that hard?

SECRETARY RICE: It's that hard. It's one of the most difficult pieces in the repertoire, but it is a magnificent piece. I listen to it -- alternately, I listen to that and Cream In the Sunshine of Your Love.

QUESTION: You've blown this. Here we go. That was only number five on the Rice hit parade. Here's number two. Take a listen: (Music playing.)

QUESTION: You're getting into your groove here. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY RICE: It's a great piece. I also exercise to that. Some mornings it's Brahms, some mornings it's Cream.

QUESTION: And for bonus points, can you name the members of Cream?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton, and I'm blanking on the last -- the last important member.

QUESTION: Jack Bruce.

SECRETARY RICE: Jack Bruce. Of course. Of course.

QUESTION: Well, you know, I'm sorry you're going to have to get the home game of Fox News Sunday and play along with us at home. Secretary Rice, we want to thank you again so much for being with us.


QUESTION: Ginger Baker and Brahms.

SECRETARY RICE: Showing either my age or my taste, I'm not sure which.

QUESTION: That's okay. Well, it's certainly eclectic. Always a pleasure to have you here.



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