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Interview With David Pujadas of France 2 Television

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Paris, France
December 17, 2007

QUESTION (Via interpreter): As mentioned earlier, we are meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Good evening and thank you for having us here.

Do you really believe in the creation of a Palestinian State and in peace in the region as early as 2008 when there have been so many failures in the past?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Well, it is certainly going to be ambitious to have the creation of a Palestinian state before the end of 2008. But I have talked very carefully and very often with both President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert. They are committed to this goal. It will take hard work. But I do believe that they understand that their people expect to try and end the conflict. And Annapolis was a good start, it gave international support. This meeting now gives, we hope, financial support to the Palestinians in creating a capacity and I believe that we can get it done.

QUESTION (Via interpreter): Isn’t this late but strong American involvement also a means to regain the prestige tarnished by the failure, or at least the stalemate, in Iraq?

SECRETARY RICE: There are many easier ways to be concerned about legacy or image than to try and help resolve the conflict that has been going on for decades. No, the United States has been committed to the Palestinian-Israeli issue from -- practically from the beginning. It was the President who was the first American President to make it a matter of policy that there should be a Palestinian state. And he stated that very clearly, that there should be Israeli and Palestine living side by side in peace and freedom. And so the American commitment to this has been there. But we believe now that there is an opening that allows, given the commitment of the two leaders, allows them to make progress and so that is the reason for the American commitment. And the American commitment and the American involvement will be very strong.

QUESTION (Via interpreter): The American secret services have recently published a report which scales down the Iranian nuclear threat at least in the upcoming years. Haven’t you previously exaggerated the threat?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, if you look very closely at what the National Intelligence Estimate says, it says that Iran may have halted or it has halted its weaponization program. But what we have been concerned about and what the diplomacy that we've been engaged in with Russia, China and the European 3 -- France, Britain and Germany -- is to get Iran to halt its enrichment and reprocessing activities because that is the activity that continues. No one disagrees that that continues. And that is the activity that can lead to the production of fissile material in order to have a weapon. And so the Iranian program remains dangerous. It remains a program that the Security Council has twice told the Iranians they must halt and we're going to continue with the diplomatic activity to try and get the Iranians to take a better course.

QUESTION (Via interpreter): There is no reason today to change your policy towards Iran following this report?

SECRETARY RICE: In fact, I think that this policy -- this report really reinforces the policy course that we're on. It says that Iran was responsive to diplomatic pressure. It says that Iran is able to assess costs and benefits. In fact, there are costs if Iran continues with enrichment and reprocessing, further and further Security Council resolutions that lead to Iran's isolation, and there are benefits if Iran decides to negotiate.

If Iran suspends its enrichment and reprocessing activities, trying to make fuel for a nuclear program, then there will be many benefits in trade and economic development. And the United States has said, and I have said, that if Iran suspends its enrichment and reprocessing, I will sit down anytime, anyplace, anywhere to talk about anything with my counterpart. That would reverse 28 years of American policy. And so I think the question increasingly is not why will we not talk to Tehran, but why does Tehran not want to talk to the United States.

QUESTION (Via interpreter): Recently, Colonel Qadhafi made a controversial visit here in France. If he were to ask the United States, would you be ready to receive Muammar Qadhafi on an official visit? Up to the level of an official visit?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, look, everyone is trying to find ways to improve relations with Libya after the strategic choice that Libya made in 2003 to give up its weapons of mass destruction after Libya has tried to right its past in terms of terrorism. I'm going to meet with my Libyan counterpart early next year. So I understand that people are trying to find ways to improve relations with Libya.

QUESTION (Via interpreter): Up to the level of an official visit?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we have not, and we have no plans to make an invitation for an official visit. But as I said, I'm meeting with my counterpart and we want to find ways also to improve relations with Libya.

QUESTION (Via interpreter): Has the French presidential election -- and the arrival of Nicolas Sarkozy -- really changed Franco-American relations? Would you say France is now a more reliable and faithful ally?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me start by saying that France and the United States are allies. France is our oldest ally, of course, helping us all the way back at the time of the Revolutionary War. And we are allies because we share common values. We have had an excellent relationship in the time since President Sarkozy has been elected. We've had an -- I've had an excellent relationship with Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister. France and the United States have worked together in the past, for instance on Lebanon, and we are making new strides, I think, in our cooperative relationship working together on the Middle East, working together on Iran, working together in Afghanistan, and I think that there are many, many good things ahead for U.S.-French relations.

QUESTION (Via interpreter): In a year, President Bush will be gone. Many people have considered you as possible candidate to the White House. Why don’t you have any presidential ambitions?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, me? (Laughter.) No. I look --

QUESTION (Via interpreter): Why not?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, I would like very much to finish this year as Secretary of State, to see what we can do to advance the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace and the work that we're doing here --

QUESTION (Via interpreter): But afterwards?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, I would like very much also to -- we have other important issues ahead of us. We have to resolve the issue in the Balkans concerning Kosovo. We have to put the NATO mission in Afghanistan on a firmer footing. We're making some progress, but we have more progress to make there. We --

QUESTION (Via interpreter): But in a year?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we appreciated much the work that we've been able to do together. That's what I'm looking forward to over the next year and then I'll happily go back to Stanford and teach.

QUESTION (Via interpreter): Just a very quick last question. You have always been a symbol here in France. For instance, Nicolas Sarkozy recently said about Rama Yade, State Secretary for Human Rights “I want her to be my French Condoleezza Rice.” Are you proud, or are you fed up with the focus on your skin color --

SECRETARY RICE: We've lost our translation. The translation is --

QUESTION: Can you hear now?

SECRETARY RICE: No. Can you turn it up or -- I don't know what happened.

QUESTION: You are still a symbol -- very strong -- and Nicolas Sarkozy said recently about Rama Yade who is Secretary of State --

SECRETARY RICE: That's she's a French American Secretary Rice, yes, I understood.

QUESTION: The French Condoleezza Rice. So are you -- is it -- you think it's good for you or you get sick about always thinking about your skin color?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. No, I am -- I'm very proud of what France has done in now diversifying the team that makes French foreign policy. I've always felt that it's extremely important for multiethnic democracies to have a foreign policy that looks like the population. And from my point of view, the increasing number of people of color who are involved in foreign policy is a very, very good thing. I'm very -- I know that President Sarkozy is very proud of this appointment; he has reason to be proud of it. But the most important reason that he should be proud of it is that she's a very, very capable person, someone who is making a difference and I think everybody respects for her skill. And that's the important thing, is to have people who can be respected for their skill and for their knowledge and for their capability and to have people who are of a different color. It's very important and I don't mind at all. I'm very honored that he thinks so.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.


Released on December 17, 2007

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