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Interview On TVE with Lorenzo Mila

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Madrid, Spain
June 1, 2007

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Secretary Rice, in Spain, many people think that relations between the two countries, U.S. and Spain, cooled down when President Zapatero pulled out the troops -- the Spanish troops -- in Iraq. This is a first visit of a high-level representative of the U.S. Government to Spain in three years. Does this visit mean the relations between the two countries are warming up?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think we've had normal relations for some time. The United States and Spain are allies. We're in NATO together; we are serving together in Afghanistan. A lot of our conversation today was about that, working together on any number of issues. We've had our differences, and the --

QUESTION: Are we warming up?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I feel that the relationship is warm. We had a good discussion today. I've had good discussion with Miguel Moratinos in Washington and in other places. We're allies. But when we have differences, we will express them. I think there's no secret that out of the Iraq war, we had a particular difference in the timing of the withdrawal. But that's behind us now, and we need to look forward and look to areas on which we can cooperate and work together.

QUESTION: Have you talked about with Rodriguez -- I mean President Zapatero about the possibility of meeting with President Bush any time?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we didn't talk about this today. We talked about issues. We talked about Afghanistan, we talked about Iran, about Kosovo. We spent a good deal of time talking about Latin America, which is an area that I think Spain and the United States --

QUESTION: Sure.

SECRETARY RICE: -- have very strong interests, and could do a great deal to promote democracy and freedom.

QUESTION: Would you find interesting a meeting with -- between President Bush and President Zapatero?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm not here to schedule the President. I've had a very good meeting today with President Zapatero, with Miguel Moratinos, and I think we've set a good foundation to have further cooperation on some issues that are very important to us, very important to the world, particularly to try to secure Afghanistan and to work together in the Middle East.

QUESTION: Mmm-hmm. But I'm sure you understand that in Spain, we don't have many opportunities of talking and with representatives at your level in the U.S. Government. So we are interested in knowing -- many other countries pulled out troops -- let's stop for just for a few seconds in this issue -- pulled out troops in Iraq.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes.

QUESTION: Why U.S. was so upset with Spain doing so?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, our view was that it was done rather quickly and without really proper time for the allies to prepare. You have to remember that Iraq is a very dangerous environment and we have forces there who are at risk, who were at risk in 2004. And it's -- we have a difference on this. But again, this was a long time ago now. I was able to talk to Foreign Minister Moratinos and to President Zapatero about the fact that we're cooperating on a children's hospital in Basra in Iraq. And I hope that we'll be able to do more for the Iraqi people because we are all committed now to a future in which Iraq is stable, a future in which Iraq is democratic, and a future in which Iraq is able to defend itself and to defend its interests.

QUESTION: Do you think it's possible to solve the conflict in Iraq without talking with Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we have had a neighbors conference because it is important for the neighbors to do what they say they want to do. The neighbors all say: We want a stable Iraq, it's not in our interest to have instability in Iraq. They need to act in that way. And you probably know that our Ambassador Ryan Crocker met with the Iranian Ambassador to Iraq just a few days ago. We are -- we recently met, or I recently met, with the Syrian Foreign Minister because on the issue of Iraq, if indeed we do have a common interest on -- for stability in Iraq, we need to pursue it. So we are talking to the neighbors about the issue of Iraq.

QUESTION: Mmm-hmm. You were talking about the disagreements we still have between Spain, and some of them are around Venezuela and particularly Cuba -- Cuba, I mean. Have you reached any agreement about Cuba with the Spanish Government today?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me just say on Venezuela, I found that we're in complete accord about the seriousness of the decision of the Venezuelan President to take off the air opposition television. And in fact, Foreign Minister Moratinos and I today at the press conference that we held said that that station should be allowed to be on the air, Venezuelans should have access to it, and this was indeed an anti-democratic act.

On Cuba, I think we are in agreement that Cuba should have a democratic transition. The Cuban people deserve that. Spain has its own history of having lived under authoritarianism. The transition to democracy is here -- here as one that people greatly admire, and you can see what democracy has done for Spain. It is prosperous. It's vital. And the Cuban people deserve the same thing.

And so we talked today about the importance of sending the right messages to the opposition, to dissidents, so that the Cuban people realize that those of us who are lucky enough to live in freedom believe that they also should live in freedom, and that we are not going to countenance the transfer of power from one dictatorship to another dictatorship.

QUESTION: In Spain, many people will share that point of view, but also, these people would find it a bit paradoxical U.S. fighting so hard to defend human rights and also have Guantanamo, and also having the EU parliament, Brussels, saying these CIA flights in Europe -- those prisons are intolerable.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all --

QUESTION: Is it a paradox?

SECRETARY RICE: No. The United States is the strongest defender of human rights in the entire international system. We are the ones that every year go and try very hard to get the world to stand up for human rights in Cuba, human rights in Belarus, human rights in Burma, and indeed human rights around the world. We are fighting so that the terrorists will not, as they have in places like the United States but also here in Madrid, take the lives of innocents.

And when you look at Guantanamo, yes, we would be very pleased to -- the President has said it -- to close Guantanamo; we hope to do that. But where are we to put these very dangerous people who have told us if they are out again, they're going to kill again, they're going to go out and try and kill innocent people?

I think it is just a terrible mistake to try and equate somehow human rights abuses around the world with the necessity of -- on a legal basis, on a basis that protects the rule of law -- what we are trying to do in the war on terror, which is to keep dangerous people from killing innocent people.

QUESTION: Mmm-hmm. And finally, any agreement about Afghanistan, getting more involved -- the Spanish troops there?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we've talked about that. I've been talking to all of our allies, not just Spain, about the need to do more, particularly in the training of Afghan police and armed forces. The Spanish Government, I think, is going to look at this and to see what more can be done. They are part of the NATO mission and, of course, they're probably -- at this point, there's never been a greater test for NATO. And we're meeting that test pretty well. But we need to be more robust in our response because when the Afghan people secure their democracy and destroy -- defeat the Taliban, and destroy terrorism in their country, we're all going to be safer.

QUESTION: Conquering the minds and the hearts?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, yes, and we're working very hard at that, too. You know, we -- nobody likes to see civilian casualties. One civilian casualty -- innocent civilian casualty -- is too many. But we also know that the high moral ground here is not held by the people who hide in villages and keep these civilians as human shields. And when you attack these terrorists, unfortunately sometimes there are civilian deaths.

But let's remember what we're trying to do there. We're trying to help the Afghan people defeat one of the most brutal -- we have helped them to defeat one of the most brutal regimes in the modern times, the Taliban; to take away the territory of al-Qaeda, which attacks all over the world; and to give the Afghan people a better chance. That's the high moral ground.

The United States has in the period from 2001 until now spent more than $14 billion in reconstruction assistance and we've allocated $2 billion more. So we are working hard at reconstruction: at building schools, at allowing girls to have education, at building roads and bridges and health clinics. We're working at the hearts and minds. But we shouldn't confuse the fact that sometimes there are terrorists who hide among the civilians with the fact that we want to protect those civilians.

QUESTION: Mmm-hmm. Thanks very much. Any possibility of running for President anytime?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, no. No, no, no. You don't have to worry about that. But it has been a great visit to Spain and I want to thank my hosts and also the Spanish people.

QUESTION: Thanks very much, Secretary Rice.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.

QUESTION: It's been very kind of you.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.


2007/T9-13


Released on June 1, 2007

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