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Interview With Talal Al-Haj of Al Arabiya

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Waldorf-Astoria Hotel
New York
September 25, 2008

QUESTION: The Quartet meeting is happening tomorrow. 


QUESTION: Do you have fresh ideas? I mean, we seem to have reached – President Peres spoke that the Annapolis process would not reap its full rewards by the end of this year. So what do you expect from this meeting?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we will see what the Annapolis process can conclude. I still believe they have time to conclude an agreement. They’re working very seriously, very urgently, as I might note, that Foreign Minister Livni, after she was – the day she was asked to – the day after she was asked to form a government, met with Abu Alaa. I think it shows a certain commitment and seriousness. The Quartet doesn’t need new ideas at this point. We need to support the parties and the ideas that they are carrying forward, and we will do that.

QUESTION: President Peres also said that he would like the peace process to include the two neighbors, Syria and Lebanon. Are there any planned Americans’ involvement in the Syrian-Israeli track?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the Syrian indirect talks are going on with the Israelis, and we understand that a comprehensive peace will mean a peace between Lebanon and Israel, Syria and Israel, and, of course, the Palestinians and Israel. And that was the notion at Annapolis, that there will need to be other tracks. But right now, the Palestinian-Israeli track is more advanced. They are in direct negotiations, and I think we should support those while not ruling out or trying to set aside other discussions that might take place as well.

QUESTION: On the Lebanon track, there are talks now saying that there will be talks held between Saad Hariri and the leader of Hezbollah, Nasrallah. How does the United States view that?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, this is for Lebanon to decide and the Lebanese to decide. What we’ve stood for is for Lebanon to be able to make its own choices, and I think we’ve made a lot of progress in that regard. Syrian forces are out of Lebanon. No one expects that there will not be relations or any, even, influence. Syria is a neighbor. But we want Syria to have correct relations; that is, diplomatic relations with an ambassador and all of the appropriate means of doing business that exist between sovereign nations.

We also recognize that President Sleiman has begun the national dialogue envisioned by Doha, that he is working to improve and extend the mandate of the government, the mandate of the armed forces. The armed forces of Lebanon are actually in the south of the country. That hadn’t been true for 30 years. And so the Lebanese are making progress. And however Lebanon chooses to conduct its affairs, the United States will support it.

QUESTION: On Sudan, how do you view the fresh proposal to use Article 16 with the statutes?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we’re not party to the ICC, but we do believe that justice is important. And terrible, horrible things have been done in Sudan. But what we’re concentrating on right now is that the Sudanese Government needs to move quickly. There – it doesn’t have much credibility when it comes to its promises after years of failing to live up to those promises. 

I had a conversation with Vice President Taha. We went through what needs to be done to get the additional – about 4,000 or so peacekeeping forces are ready to go in. We will provide logistical support. We also reviewed the humanitarian situation and removing some of the terrible red tape that seems to come up every time humanitarian agencies try to act in Sudan. And so we’re going to concentrate on trying to improve those, and on supporting peace talks between the rebels and the government.

QUESTION: If they fulfill the French conditions, would it be acceptable for the United States to support that in – suspension in the Security Council?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, they’re not French conditions. They’re international conditions. And I think we’d better focus on getting the Sudanese Government to fulfill their obligations. Thus far, they have not.

QUESTION: On the Western Sahara, you had planned mediation and a meeting with the presidents of Algeria and the Moroccan; however, the Algerians did not attend. Was the mediation needed?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the – we talked about the idea when I was in the region. It didn’t come together. And so what we’ve – are going to do is, of course, continue to support the UN mediation. Ambassador Chris Ross is somebody that we have a lot of confidence in, that the parties have a lot of confidence in. But you know, it’s time for this issue to be resolved. And it – there’s going to have to be some aspect of autonomy. They don’t need to start from scratch, but they need to resolve the issue.

QUESTION: One last question. Iran with the position of Russia not accepting a ministerial meeting during this session and –

SECRETARY RICE: We – first of all, we completely agreed it wasn’t time for a ministerial meeting. We all have a lot to do. And the political directors have more work to do before a ministerial meeting. To look at next steps would be fruitful, so –

QUESTION: But they’re not supporting another sanctions –

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we’ll see. We’ll see. Every time we get to this place, people say the Russians and the Chinese won’t support another resolution, and then we get another resolution. And so we will work on what needs to be done. The Iranians clearly are not fulfilling their obligations either to the IAEA, nor are they taking up the generous offer that the six parties have put forward. And so we’ll pursue the – of course, the negotiations track, but we’ll also pursue the second track. And I might note that the United States and Europe continue to place pressure on the Iranians and on their economy through measures of our own that are collateral measures to those in the UN Security Council.

QUESTION: Do I have time to question Iraq and the election? I don’t –


QUESTION: Yes. On Iraq, the election –

SECRETARY RICE: The election law.

QUESTION: – law has been approved except for Kirkuk opposition.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, it’s an excellent step. And the Iraqis are demonstrating again that their political system is maturing, that they are using politics to resolve their differences, that they know when it’s time to move forward. And I think this will make it possible for the Iraqi people to hold an election and to get leaders that are representative of the new Iraq.

QUESTION: One last one about –


QUESTION: – the women conference? No? No women conference?

SECRETARY RICE: The women’s conference was terrific. We had women leaders there from all over, including four presidents. We had women there from the Middle East, women ministers, and I think it will make a difference.

QUESTION: In the Islamic and Arab world?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, we had women there from all over. And it’s important that women be involved in politics and economics; here at the UN, that there be more women special representatives and other high officials. It’s been a very good network, and I’m sure it will continue.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you for your time.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. Thank you.


Released on September 26, 2008

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