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Remarks at Stakeout After Signing Ceremony for U.S.-U.A.E. Agreement on Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
January 15, 2009

SECRETARY RICE: Thanks for being respectful of that.

QUESTION: Thank you for coming back.


QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the bombing of the UN warehouse in Lebanon today? And then secondly, we understand that you’re working out a deal with the Israelis on tunnels, and also on crossings. Have you reached an arrangement?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I can’t speak to the latter, Sue. We are discussing with the Israelis and with others what we can do to bolster the possibilities of getting to the durable cease-fire that we’re all seeking. And I think you know that there are several elements to that, and we are working with the regional partners and also with the Israelis.

As to the unfortunate circumstances – incident at the UNRWA warehouse earlier, I did speak with my Israeli counterparts about it. There is great concern on their part. It was, they say, an error that it happened. It does demonstrate the very dangerous nature of the kinds of fighting that’s going on and the events that we’re in. We are principally concerned, of course, about the humanitarian situation in that regard, and Henrietta Fore is reporting to me frequently about what can be done to help. We talked about – you may know that the Israelis extended the humanitarian pause for a period of time, and we think that that needs to be done and we are really asking for the tightest possible cooperation and coordination between UNRWA, the ICRC, and the Israeli forces that are there, because we – obviously, it’s a very difficult situation for civilians.

QUESTION: Did you protest after this --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we had a discussion of the difficulties that this had caused and the need to try to avoid such incidents. I’m quite sure that they’re trying to avoid them, but it’s a difficult environment. And our focus has been on what can we do to help get supplies – medical and food and water – to the citizens of Gaza. We are in contact with people on the ground through various means, and can therefore try and be as specific as possible when we talk to the Israelis about what needs to be done. And I’ve done that personally with both Foreign Minister Livni and Defense Minister Barak today.

QUESTION: So is that who you spoke to today to give this message that they needed to, you know, avoid such incidents in the future?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, and they know that. You know, they’re not trying to create these incidents. But it is – it’s also very important that there be humanitarian access coordination. And yes, I spoke with both the foreign minister and the defense minister.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Thanks, guys.

SECRETARY RICE: I am continuing to work on it. You know that we’re all seeking a cease-fire. We’re aggressively working toward that cease-fire. And we’re trying to help put the pieces in place so that it can be durable.

QUESTION: Secretary --

MR. MCCORMACK: All right. Thanks, guys.

QUESTION: I just want to ask about the signing, actually.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Oh, about the – oh, all right. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: So how realistic is it that the signing of this accord could actually be used as a model for some kind of peaceful nuclear accord with Iran, as has been suggested, but others have criticized that, saying it’s a totally different kettle of fish with Iran?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, there are a number of countries that have expressed interest in the pursuit of civil nuclear power, peaceful uses of nuclear power, in a way that does not raise proliferation concerns and proliferation risks. As you know, the issue here is the fuel cycle and the ability, in particular, to enrich and reprocess. And if you’re prepared to use imported fuel with a fuel take-back provision, then that really does minimize, as a matter of fact, almost eliminates the proliferation risks that are associated with the peaceful uses of nuclear power.

This is something, by the way, that has been advocated by Mohamed ElBaradei. It has been advocated by Presidents Putin and Bush together. I think a lot of people see this as a way for countries to pursue peaceful useful – peaceful uses of nuclear power. And I might note that Sheikh Abdullah mentioned that, of course, UAE is quite rich in hydrocarbons, but a lot of countries are looking out into the future and seeing that they don’t want to be dependent on exhaustible sources of energy out into the future; and also that as we’re all trying to be more responsible stewards of the environment in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, nuclear power is clean, it is safe. And when one can minimize proliferation risks, we think that it is something that could be spread quite widely.

MR. MCCORMACK: Thanks, guys.

QUESTION: Thank you.


MR. MCCORMACK: Thanks guys.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. We’ve been in constant discussion with Congress, and of course, it’ll go forward now to Congress for consideration.

QUESTION: Thank you.


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