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Interview on ABC's This Week With George Stephanopooulos

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Crawford, Texas
August 6, 2006

QUESTION: Good morning, Madame Secretary.

SECRETARY RICE: Good morning, George.

QUESTION: The Speaker of the Lebanese parliament, Nabih Beri, just moments ago said that Lebanon rejects the draft UN resolution. I know you've spoken to the Prime Minister at least twice. Is that what he told you?

SECRETARY RICE: I talked with the Prime Minister and my conversations with the Prime Minister concerned what concerns Lebanon about this resolution. But let's -- I think we have to realize we have to vote the resolution, and then I think you will see the parties recognize that they have an obligation to respond to UN Security Council resolutions.

This resolution represents a very now extensive period of consultation, starting with the G-8 statement in St. Petersburg, moving through consultations that I've held with the parties when I was in the region, that the French Foreign Minister and others have held with the parties, and this represents the international community's view of how this violence can abate so that we can move on to the next phase by bringing in troops.

QUESTION: But let me press you on that.

SECRETARY RICE: So, George, I just want to say let's vote the resolution and then there's going to be an obligation by Lebanon and by Israel to obey that resolution.

QUESTION: But last week you were in Lebanon and Israel trying to get them to sign on before you went to the UN. Now you're saying, just to be clear, that you're going to press for a vote in the United Nations even before Lebanon or Israel agree to this?

SECRETARY RICE: We've been in contact with the Lebanese and the Israelis. I think that the differences here are really not -- not really very great. Obviously Israel would have liked to have seen other things in this resolution. Lebanon would have liked to have seen other things in this resolution. But what we need is a basis now for a cessation of the hostilities, a cessation of offensive military operations, a cessation of rockets firing on Israel, so that we can move to the next step, which is bringing in an international security force.

Because what we want to do here, George, and what the principles in this resolution do, is to establish a basis so that you can't go back to the status quo ante where Hezbollah acted as a state within a state, attacking Israel without the Lebanese Government even knowing.

QUESTION: You say the differences --

SECRETARY RICE: That's what is being done here.

QUESTION: You say the differences aren't great, but Mr. Beri said, and Hezbollah representatives have said the same thing, that they're not going to accept any ceasefire agreement that allows Israelforces to stay in Lebanon during the ceasefire.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I have to say I really do hope and I do believe that both parties understand the need to bring this violence to a halt, the need to have a situation in which international forces can be brought in. I suspect that after this resolution is passed that you will see an understanding on the part of both parties that the time to have an abatement in this violence is now.

George, I want to be very clear. This is a first step. It's not the end of the road by any means. There will unlikely be -- there will likely be some skirmishes, some difficulty, but the major offensive operations, the rocket attacks, the violence that we are all seeing every day on our screens, has simply got to stop so that the Lebanese people have an opportunity to begin to return to a normal life. That is what is contemplated here. It's contemplated on the basis of principles that will not allow a return to the status quo ante. We're going to vote this resolution within, I think, a couple of days here at the very latest, and I think that you will see parties that understand that this is the best first step to ending this conflict and moving to a more stable future.

QUESTION: Doesn't Hezbollah have an effective veto, though, over any kind of international force that's supposed be authorized by the next resolution? All the nations who have said they're going to contribute say they won't go in if that requires them fighting Hezbollah. Hezbollah has to accept it, don't they?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let's just be very clear. If Hezbollah does not respond to a cessation of violence, there's going to be a very strange situation in which we're going to know exactly that it is not the Lebanese people for whom Hezbollah cares but rather its own agenda. This is a good first step by the international community and it will be, I believe, a very good first step by Israel and Lebanon to have an abatement in the fighting, a cessation of the hostilities, so that we can move on to bringing international forces in.

I just want to remind that the elected Prime Minister of Lebanon, who by the way has Hezbollah ministers in his cabinet, has put forward a statement when he was at Rome that talked about the need of international forces to help the Lebanese army extend the authority of the Lebanese Government throughout the country. We have to remember that the problem that came here, that arose here, was that Hezbollah, acting like a state within a state, went into Israel, did it without the knowledge of the Lebanese Government. Lebanonneeds to extend its authority south and that is what is contemplated in this resolution, but it's going to need the help of the international forces to do that.

QUESTION: You mentioned the Prime Minister's statement. But so far, just to be clear before we move on, the Prime Minister has told you he has concerns with the resolution; he has not signed on.

SECRETARY RICE: I think both parties will have concerns because they would have liked more. That's the nature of a two-sided cessation of hostilities. But this is a good basis for the cessation of hostilities. Everybody has been calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities. This is the time now to do it, but it does it on a basis that does not permit a return to the status quo ante.

The Prime Minister has also told me that he wants to extend the authority of the Lebanese Government throughout the country. He has also told me that he wants very much not to return to the status quo ante. The Israelis don't want to return to the status quo ante. And so this resolution is a very good basis for providing that framework and we're going to move forward with voting it and I think you will see that the parties will understand that this is the right first step.

QUESTION: I want to move on to Iraq. You know, no doubt, of the hearing this week where General Abizaid and General Peter Pace spoke to the Senate Armed Services Committee with their starkest warnings yet that civil war could -- could -- break out in Iraq. At that hearing the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Senator John Warner, questioned whether Congress has authorized U.S.forces to be put into the middle of a civil war. I want to show you what he said:

"We have to examine very carefully what Congress authorized the President to do in the context of a situation if we're faced with an all out civil war, whether we have to come back to the Congress to get further indication of support."

I spoke to several members of that committee after the hearing, and to a person they said that they did not believe that U.S.forces should be put in the middle of a civil war. If civil war does break out, will President Bush pull troops out of Iraq?

SECRETARY RICE: George, I'm not going to deal with a hypothetical and that's what this is. This is a hypothetical. Because I think what General Abizaid was saying -- and the tense is very important here. He said -- he didn't say they're sliding to civil war. He said that, yes, the sectarian violence is as bad as he's ever seen it. But he made very clear that we have the forces and, he believes, the plan to prevent any slide to civil war.

Now, the Iraqi people and the Iraqi Government has not made a choice for civil war. They've made a choice for a unity government. They've made a choice to live in a single, unified Iraq. They've made a choice based on the legitimacy that is granted them by the votes of 12.5 million Iraqis who risked their lives to bring this government into power.

When you talk to the Iraqi Foreign Minister, you're talking to a Kurd. When you talk to the Prime Minister, you're talking to someone who is Shia. When you talk to the Speaker, you're talking to a Sunni. This is a unity government. And yes, the circumstances are very difficult. It's a young democracy. There are determined enemies who would like to stoke sectarianism and to bring about civil war.

But it would be really erroneous to say that the Iraqis are somehow making a choice for civil war, or I think even sliding into civil war. They are concentrating on the right things: getting security in Baghdad; building up their security forces so that they can be the lead element in securing the country; bringing about changes in the Ministry of Interior so that it is not a hotbed of sectarianism; getting a reconciliation plan so that Iraqis can lay down their arms who wish to lay down their arms; and having a reconstruction effort that shows the Iraqi people that their lives are indeed going to be better. Those are the things this government is concentrating on. Those are the things we're supporting them in doing. And they're a very new government. It's a difficult time, but I believe they're going to be successful.

QUESTION: As you know, Madame Secretary, not everyone agrees that civil war has not broken out. I want to show you an article from yesterday's McClatchy newspapers. The headline: "Iraqi Civil War Has Already Begun, U.S. Troops Say." And then it goes on to say:

"'Army troops in and around the capital interviewed in the last week cite a long list of evidence that the center of the nation is coming undone… 'It's to the point of being irreconcilable; you know, we've found a lot of bodies, entire villages have been cleared out, we get reports of entire markets being gunned down -- and if that's not a marker of a civil war, I don't know what is,' says Staff Sgt. Wesley Ramon of San Antonio, Texas."

So let me ask you again. You say it's a hypothetical, but it's an important hypothetical. If civil war breaks out, will the United Statestroops remain?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, again, it is a hypothetical and I'm not going to comment on a hypothetical. The U.S.troops are there to support a unity government and unified security forces, and that is what they're doing and that's what they're doing all day. I'm certain that if you're on the ground in the midst of sometimes terrible violence that it's difficult to see the larger political process that is underway. I don't doubt the sincerity of the sergeant who spoke in that way.

But I know what the Iraqi Government and the great majority of the Iraqi people are doing, and they are trying to build a unified Iraq. Nobody has made a choice here. The south has not walked out of the senate and declared civil war. People are working to try to build a unified Iraqand we are going to help them with that. Yes, the sectarian violence is higher than it has been at any other time. The Iraqis have to get a handle on that. They're going to have to make some difficult political choices in order to do that and they're going to have to have security forces that are capable of carrying out some difficult security functions. But that is what we're helping them to do.

The people who wish to destroy the foundation for this new Iraqhave clearly gone at Baghdad because that's the center of the country. That's why the Iraqi Government is so focused on a Baghdad security plan, because they understand that they have to deliver security in Baghdad.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, that's all we have time for today. Thanks very much.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much.

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