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Interview With Tefera Ggedamu of Ethiopia TV

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
December 5, 2007

QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Secretary, for offering to sit for this interview. It's a pleasure.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, pleasure to be with you.

QUESTION: You had a fairly busy day.


QUESTION: You came this morning and you're leaving tonight.


QUESTION: And -- but you're basically running into very big issues in the Horn of Africa and in Somalia. Does it concern you? Do you know --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, yes, of course. Somalia is very concerning. Of course, Ethiopia has troops deployed in Somalia to try and help bring stability, but the real answers to Somalia will lie in a peaceful resolution, the broadening of the government base. I plan later to meet with the Prime Minister to talk about the need to broaden the basis for leadership in Somalia. And of course, Ethiopian forces need to be relieved by peacekeeping forces. And so I have just had a chance to meet with Chairman Konare and with others to talk about -- and I'll have a ministerial in a little bit -- to help talk about the need to get peacekeeping forces into Somalia.

QUESTION: But we had the issue of peacekeeping force -- it was a very serious issue a year ago and a year since, nothing is happening.


QUESTION: Yes, indeed, Ban Ki-moon said this very clearly to deploy international peacekeeping force. What is happening? I mean, the Ethiopians are there and the Prime Minister said he already told him many times --


QUESTION: -- we'd rather be replaced by any multinational force.


QUESTION: It wasn't happening.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, and I fully understand that Ethiopia needs and wants to redeploy and it should be able to redeploy. We appreciate very much the Ugandan forces who are there. We appreciate that Burundi has said that it will deploy and we have tried to help -- the United States is trying to help with the Burundi deployment. But I am working hard, we're all working hard to find other forces to supplement the Ugandan and Burundi forces.

QUESTION: Who are going to be those forces?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm talking to a number of countries. I think there are a number of possibilities, but it's going to help if there's also a sense of growing stability for the Somali Transitional Government, because after all, no one really wants to be in a circumstance in which the violence is increasing. And so there's a lot of work to do, but we are -- that's one reason that I'm here, is to raise awareness of it and to see if we can come to some solutions.

QUESTION: Are there any green lights out there?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I do think we have to solve this problem. I felt in talking with Ban Ki-moon earlier and now in talking with Chairman Konare, that people know that there's a problem to be solved; we just have to -- we have to find a way to actually -- to actually implement the solution.

QUESTION: But the new prime minister is for it, just that he wants to --

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, he does, and by all accounts, he is a good man. By all accounts, he is a respected man. This is going to be an issue, though, of not just one person. It's going to be an issue of finding a base for the government in Somalia that can bring the widest group of people into governance, people who are not in any way tainted by terrorism.

QUESTION: That, you're sure, is not going to include the Islamic Courts, even the liberal element of the --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it can include, I think, people who can be a part of Somalia's future who have not been compromised by terror and that means anyone who hasn't and isn't still committed to terror. And so I will talk with the Prime Minister about how he plans to do that.

QUESTION: Well, so does it mean that -- is there any possibility that the -- some of the elements who have participated in a conference in Asmara, Eritrea, was it two -- two months ago?


QUESTION: Is there any --

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, I would hope that we could bring those elements back. That conference was, frankly, not very successful and we have to analyze why it was not successful. We have to bring more elements to the table. But I think it starts with a commitment by the Somali leadership to be inclusive and that's what I want to gauge and to assure with the Prime Minister today.

QUESTION: But it had several elements in (inaudible) Asmara, Eritrea (inaudible) and they have -- they seem to have a very strong voice.


QUESTION: Is that a concern to the peace processes (inaudible)?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, this is not going to be easy. Somalia has not had stability for almost two decades. And it's not going to be easy to find the right political formula. It's not going to be easy to deploy peacekeepers. It's not going to be easy for Ethiopian forces to redeploy and not leave a vacuum, but that's the task before us, is to achieve those elements. And so I hope by having the ministerial here today with the concerned parties, I hope by going back and working hard on our troop contributors and as the United States has done in helping Burundi, also helping to -- at the end, that we can make some progress.

QUESTION: Interesting. Where do you stand on the issue of Eritrea? Secretary Frazer several months ago said that you are planning -- that the U.S. Government is planning to put Eritrea on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. What are you --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we are looking at exactly that because we are very concerned about the efforts of Eritrea and what it is doing. And in fact, we have taken some steps because the support for irregular forces, for terrorist forces is simply unacceptable. We hope, at the same time, that there can be efforts for Eritrea and Ethiopia to keep open dialogue or, I should say, to open dialogue about their problems. But the support of Eritrea for forces that are destabilizing is problematic and we've made that very clear.

QUESTION: And so do you have a timetable to --

SECRETARY RICE: We are working. We don't put these things on timetables, but I think it's just extremely important.

QUESTION: But was that before your government (inaudible) office?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, before my -- we only have the time until we are out of office. And so we will take as many steps as we can while we're in office.

QUESTION: It's very interesting. Let me bring you down here to Ethiopia. Apparently, there is the H.R. 2003 in the pipeline and it's going to -- soon it's going to be on the table in the Senate?


QUESTION: How would that --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the Administration is against this proposal, this resolution,

and we've made that very clear. We don't think this is the way to solve the problem.

Look, it would help and I will say to the Ethiopian leaders with whom I meet, it will help if there is attention to humanitarian circumstances and conditions in the Ogaden and in other regions on the borders. It -- there really does need to be support for people who are caught in the most difficult circumstances, displaced people, refugees. And humanitarian quarters really do need to be maintained.

I understand the security concerns, but we can't allow this to get in the way of helping innocent people who have just been caught in the basis of the conflict. And that will help the Administration to make very clear that the -- we are resolving these problems with Ethiopia voluntarily and that there is no need for something like this particular House resolution.

QUESTION: So if this bill passes, some critics of the bill say that – the United States is going to repeat the same mistake, indeed, way back in 1979, (inaudible).

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it is why we -- one of the reasons that we are close to it. We don't think that separation from the Ethiopian Government, we don't think that isolation from the Ethiopian Government is going to help at this point. We do think that good, honest, candid discussion and action about what can be done about some of the problems that have arisen do -- admittedly, due to conflicts, but there are innocent people who are involved here and the humanitarian situation needs to be dealt with.

QUESTION: Let me take you to the Ogaden. Have you had reports coming from out there?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, we have had -- we have had reports and we've been very clear that we believe that the opening of humanitarian corridors is absolutely essential and the maintenance of those humanitarian corridors is absolutely essential. I understand, again, the security threat and concern. I understand the concern. But we've worked very, very diligently to try and help relief agencies, nongovernmental agencies to be able to deal with the humanitarian situation there and we need the cooperation of the Ethiopian Government.

QUESTION: One last question. Do you think that the ONLF is a terrorist organization?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, certainly a -- what we'd call a negative force and these organizations need to be dealt with. I had a very good discussion this morning about this kind of problem in the -- and the problem of irregular forces that are causing instability. But in all these cases, the real answer is that we've got to, in all of these areas where we have a post-conflict situation, we've got to establish credible, political, and peace processes so that those who wish to be a part of the future can be a part of the future and those who do not can be dealt with.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you very much for your time today. It was a pleasure.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. Thank you.


Released on December 6, 2007

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