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Interview on NBC's Today Show With Matt Lauer

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
October 26, 2007

QUESTION: Condoleezza Rice is the U.S. Secretary of State. Madame Secretary, it's nice to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

SECRETARY RICE: Good morning, Matt.

QUESTION: Let's talk about the two sides of these sanctions. Some people say, and I think the Administration believes, this will eventually force the Iranians to the negotiating table. Others say no, that this will force them further away from that very same table. Why, in your gut, do you think these new sanctions will work?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, clearly, I think the Iranians have to be clear that there is not going to be ignoring their decision to not adhere to the international community's demands that they suspend their enrichment and reprocessing programs.

The problem here isn't the United States. The problem isn't the international community. The problem is Iran. We've offered a pathway of negotiations, we've offered to help them with civil nuclear power if they will forego the fuel cycle. There is an easy road ahead for Iran if it wishes to take it, but if it won't take it --

QUESTION: But any --

SECRETARY RICE: If it won't take it, then there are going to be consequences.

QUESTION: Any time you design foreign policy, you have to think about the personalities involved. And when you look at Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, does he appear to you, Secretary Rice, to be the kind of guy who is going to negotiate out of weakness and negotiate in the face of threats from the United States? Or does he appear, based on his past performance, to be a guy who may become even more belligerent in the face of these threats?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, there are more people in Iran and in its leadership than President Ahmadi-Nejad and what we're trying to do is to appeal to those who may reasonably understand that the path that Iran is on is destructive, those who believe that Iran can instead have a pathway to cooperation in the international community.

There are those in Iran, I believe, who understand that the United States is not trying to deny Iran technology. We certainly are not trying to deny the Iranian people a rightful place in the international community of states. And so if there are those who wish to take the path that is prepared for them, perhaps this will get the attention of those people.

QUESTION: Let me talk about Russia and here is what President Putin of Russia said about the idea of these new sanctions. I'm quoting here: "Why worsen the situation by threatening sanctions and bring it to a dead end? It's not the best way to resolve the situation by running around like a madman with a razorblade in his hand."

First, how would you respond to that? And secondly, given the fact that Russia and China don't seem to be on board with these new sanctions, how can we make sure they hold water and don't leak all around the world?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let's remember that what the United States did yesterday was to say that Iran cannot use the international financial system for its illicit activities to support terrorism and to support proliferation. We have another course which is within the UN Security Council on which we're all agreed that the Iranians have to live up to the Security Council resolutions that have been passed.

Now we have been trying for a very long time now to get Iran to understand that it should come to the negotiating table. We're prepared to continue to offer that path to the negotiating table. I said again yesterday, Matt, I will meet my counterpart anytime, anywhere if they will simply suspend their programs. So this is an open invitation to Iran, but if Iran cannot accept this open invitation, the international community cannot just sit idly by until we face unpalatable choices. A nuclear weapon in the hands of the Iranian regime would be deeply destabilizing in the world's most volatile region and we can't simply --

QUESTION: Well, let me stay with Russia --

SECRETARY RICE: -- can't simply sit idly by.

QUESTION: Let me stay with Russia for a second because President Putin and President Bush met in Kennebunkport back on July 2nd. After that meeting, President Bush, on the subject of Iran, said this and I'm quoting: "I'm concerned about the Iranians' attempt to develop the technologies, know-how to develop a nuclear weapon. The President," and he's referring to President Putin here, "shares that. I'm a little hesitant to put words in his mouth, but I think he shares that same concern."

Now fast forward to October 16th in Tehran. Here's the image we saw: President Putin and President Ahmadi-Nejad meeting and after that meeting, I'm paraphrasing here, but President Putin said he does not believe the Iranians are trying to develop nuclear weapons. It doesn't seem like President Bush and President Putin are on the same page. So has the President gotten an explanation from President Putin?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, clearly, President Putin and Russia have voted for Security Council resolutions that express the deep concern of the international community that if Iran gets the technologies that they are trying now to perfect, they could, in fact, have the technologies that could lead to a nuclear weapon. So that's clearly shared by the Russians. The Russians also have proposed a civil nuclear program for Iran that would not allow them to have the fuel cycle. It would take back the fuel rather than letting them enrich and reprocess. So I think we clearly have the same view of this. Now the issue is we may have some tactical differences about timing, about how severe sanctions should be.

QUESTION: Right.

SECRETARY RICE: But the Russians have no desire to have a nuclear-armed Iran in their neighborhood because after all, Moscow is a lot closer to Iran than the United States.

QUESTION: Let me talk about this Israeli air strike inside Syria back in either late August or early September. Speculation is it was designed to take out a nuclear site built in cooperation with the North Koreans. If that's true and given the fact that Iran and its president has said they'd like to see Israel wiped off the map, do you expect the Israelis to sit by and wait for more U.S. sanctions to take hold against Iran or do you expect them to use their military option inside Iran?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the very fact that we're asking that question shows the instability that would arise in the Middle East if Iran doesn't face consequences for its continued defiance of the international community.

QUESTION: Can you stop them from using their military option, though?

SECRETARY RICE: I'm not going to speculate on what might happen in the future. I do know that what the international community needs to do is to get tough, to give the diplomacy some teeth. The Iranians will then face a choice. Right now, the international community faces an unpalatable choice. The Iranians need to face an unpalatable choice. If they choose the path of negotiation, then we are open to discussing any and everything that they wish to discuss. But if they continue to choose the path of defiance and confrontation --

QUESTION: Right.

SECRETARY RICE: -- then it's going to get tougher and tougher. And I think you're going to see that there are many who will really start to think about the reputational and investment risk of being involved in Iran.

QUESTION: Let me end on just a different subject. On Wednesday, you were set to appear before the House Foreign Relations Committee and a protestor walked right up to your face, Madame Secretary, and said with red paint on her hands -- and said, "The blood of millions of Iraqis is on your hands." She was taken out of the room.

Not on a policy level, on a personal level, what was your response to that moment? Were you angered? Were you upset? Were you frazzled? How did you respond to it?

SECRETARY RICE: No. In fact, she was there, she was taken away. Look, I know what I'm doing and I know what this Administration has done to liberate millions of people from the tyranny and the grip of Saddam Hussein and to give them a chance for a better, more democratic future. I know that it's hard for Iraq. I know that we're making sacrifices in Iraq. I know that it's a time of great concern here in the United States because the American people want to believe that we can succeed.

But I do know that Iraqis are making progress. I know that our military forces are having a lot of success in beating back al-Qaida, in making Iraq a safer place, and so I'm completely comfortable with what we're doing. I'm glad that we took the step to liberate Iraq from the terrible dictator, Saddam Hussein.

QUESTION: Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State. Madame Secretary, I really appreciate you spending time with us this morning.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you, Matt. Great to be with you.

2007/934


Released on October 26, 2007

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