April 30th, 2007 03:41 EST
Rice Tells Iran, Halt Flow of Arms and Foreign Fighters to Iraq
Washington -- The most positive steps Iran could take to enhance Iraqi security would be to halt the flow of explosives and foreign fighters across Iraq's border and to stop supporting armed militia groups that are "killing innocent Iraqi citizens," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says.
In several television news interviews April 29, Rice said she would not rule out a meeting with the Iranian foreign minister at an upcoming international conference on Iraqi security. However, she said on CBS's Face the Nation, the conference participants "will be there not to talk about U.S.-Iranian issues, but to talk about Iraq, and how Iraq's neighbors can help to stabilize Iraq."
A number of Middle Eastern nations, including Iran and Syria, and international organizations like the European Union and the U.N. Security Council, are expected to attend the conference, termed the International Compact with Iraq and the Expanded Neighbors of Iraq. It will be held May 3-4 at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, where Secretary Rice will join the foreign ministers from 21 countries. (See related article.)
On CNN Late Edition, Rice said she is looking forward to the conference and that "everyone has said that they believe a stable Iraq is in their interests." On the other hand, she warned, "Not everyone is acting as if a stable Iraq is in their interests, and I think we want to talk about how we can all take actions to help the Iraqis secure themselves."
Rice criticized passage of legislation by the Democratic-led Congress that calls for the scheduled withdrawal of U.S. troops and said President Bush would veto the bill. Speaking on ABC's This Week, she predicted that the president would then invite the congressional leadership to the White House "to talk about how we move forward together."
Rice stressed repeatedly that the United States strongly supports the benchmarks for national reconciliation that the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has set. U.S. officials continue to press the government to move quickly toward meeting those benchmarks in such areas as a new oil law, constitutional reforms and greater inclusion of Sunnis in the government, she said.
At the same time, Rice said linking specific consequences to the failure to meet those benchmarks would be "tying the hands" of senior officials such as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and General David Petraeus, commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq. Those kinds of linkages would keep them from being flexible and creative in defeating the insurgency and helping the Iraqis achieve national reconciliation, she said. (See related article.)
Rice said the Bush administration recognizes that neither the American nor the Iraqi people can be expected to demonstrate limitless patience with progress on security and reconciliation. "This is a point that Ambassador Crocker, that General Petraeus are making to the Iraqis every day," she said on ABC's This Week.
"We can't give them a united Iraq," according to Rice. "Everyone needs to pull together in that country and there are examples where it is happening. In Ramadi, in Anbar, a province [where] terrorists were in control, the tribal leadership is coming together not just to fight the foreign fighters and the al-Qaida but also to start to rebuild the province."
Asked about Saudi Arabia on CNN Late Edition, Rice said both the United States and Iraq were working to address the Saudi government's concerns about reconciliation in Iraq, including efforts at Sunni inclusion and the use of Iraqi security forces in an even-handed manner.
The transcripts of Secretary Rice's interviews on ABC's This Week and on CBS's Face the Nation can be found on the State Department Web site.
The transcript of Secretary Rice's interview on CNN Late Edition can be found on the CNN Web site.
For more information on U.S. policies, see Iraq Update.
By Howard Cincotta
USINFO Special Correspondent