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Interview With Charlie Wolfson of CBS

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Kabul, Afghanistan
June 28, 2006

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you've said that the situation here in Afghanistan is difficult. Is it, perhaps, too difficult for the U.S. and its coalition allies to change the situation and defeat all of the things that are difficult problems here?

SECRETARY RICE: The Afghanistan situation is certainly difficult, but it is also a situation that has come a very long way in five years and where there's been tremendous progress. Difficult was when Afghanistan was headed by the Taliban and when al-Qaida was running free in the streets of Afghanistan, when women were being routinely whipped and executed in stadiums that had been given to Afghanistan by the international community. That's when life was difficult.

Yes, Afghanistan has its difficulties, but any new democracy trying to build on the ruins of a civil war would have those difficulties. And so this is a hopeful picture and the international security assistance force, the international community, the elections that have taken place here are all signs that the commitment to Afghanistan is one that is going to continue and one that's going to succeed.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me try and move out of the area and hopscotch -- there are a number of trouble spots. Most pressing today is Gaza, it seems. I know you've been in meetings here, but have you had any reports at all about any progress in getting the Israeli soldier freed? And also, have you given any thought at all to going to the region to see if you can do any good?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we do need to concentrate at this point diplomatically on trying to get the release of this Israeli soldier and also doing everything that all of us can to help set the calm in the region, which we hope will re-emerge. I think that the time is right for simply trying to mobilize the international community. I have made phone calls, talked to President Abbas. I talked to Foreign Minister Livni. I know that my colleagues have talked to the Egyptians and to others. We're going to continue to try to mobilize the international community so that we can get past this incident to get this soldier released and then get back on a course that would lead to, eventually, a negotiated solution between the parties?

QUESTION: Now let me move on to Iran if I can. How can you ignore or discount the voice of Iran's -- basically, the country's most powerful cleric in giving you an answer yesterday saying there's no need for talks?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I haven't heard that the package has been rejected and if that's what Iran means, then perhaps Iran would say that. The international community is waiting to hear what Iran's intentions are and to hear them authoritatively and hopefully not to hear them through the press. The fact is that when this package was delivered to Iran, it was delivered through Javier Solana, the EU High Commissioner, on behalf of the six parties. And we would hope that Iran intends to get back to Javier Solana with a definitive answer.

QUESTION: Do you think you're getting mixed signals?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I've heard an awful lot of different answers from Iran, but again, the authoritative channel here is to get back to Javier Solana, who is in Iran on behalf of the international community.

QUESTION: Lastly, on North Korea, is there any indication in the last week or so that they've started to back away, maybe, from launching a missile?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, North Korea's not a very transparent society and I don't think we can predict what they're going to do. I will say that there has been a concerted international effort to let the North Koreans know that a launch of the missile, a test launch at this point, in contravention of several agreements that North Korea has made would be looked upon as a provocative or an unfriendly act.

And so hopefully, the North Korean regime is reassessing and the way for North Korea to engage the international community is very clear: get back to the six-party talks, talk about the agreement that was signed in September that gives a way forward on several fronts. And we would hope that that's what we will hear from the North Koreans.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.

2006/T17-7



Released on June 28, 2006

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