December 2nd, 2006 04:14 EST
Interview With Saad Sillawi of Al Arabiya TV
QUESTION: Dr. Rice, thank you for this interview with Al Arabiya and let me start by asking you about the meeting with GCC and the Foreign Minister of Jordan and Egypt. Rumors said that you were harsh on them and you said to them if you want to help us and we need to help you, you should cooperate with Iraq. Is it true and can you tell us about this meeting?
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I think we had a very friendly meeting. It was, in fact, a meeting of old friends. These are all countries with which the United States has very good relations, has had long-standing relations. We did talk about the need to support a democratic Iraq. We did talk about the need to overcome concerns about helping this Iraqi Government, even to the point of being able to send representatives into the region to help them, to go and to visit Baghdad to show political support. Everybody around that table wants to help the Iraqi Government. I found a very strong sense of support but we want to talk about concrete ways that that can happen.
QUESTION: But, you know, I mean, the Arab leaders of Arab countries are used to giving your administration advice, but to the people you never listen to their advice unless we see now a crisis in Iraq. So what`s the policy in Iraq? What`s the strategy -- American strategy for the future of Iraq?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think we listen all the time to advice from our friends and allies. And, in fact, if you think back just a few years, the United States was involved in a war which liberated Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. It`s a good thing that Saddam Hussein`s regime is now gone and the Iraqi people have a different chance now to build a different kind of Iraq. But the policy there is that the United States is going to remain committed to Iraq. We are committed to Iraq to finish -- or help Iraqis finish the job. But in the discussion that Prime Minister Maliki had with President Bush, it was very clear that the Iraqis want more responsibility and they want the tools to take more responsibility for their security situation in particular; so most of the discussion was about how to accelerate Iraqi capabilities so that they can take more responsibility.
QUESTION: So like President Bush said, he has no timetable for withdrawing from Iraq. But do you think of the militias in Iraq and American responsibility about these militias should be gone before you withdraw from Iraq? Because we`re going to find a lot of problems -- just like people said if in 24 hours time and said, okay, we`ll go, we`re leaving and leaving the militia.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it was very clear -- first of all, the United States is committed to an Iraq that can govern itself and that has rule of law, and rule of law means that there cannot be armed groups operating outside of the authority of the state. Prime Minister Maliki has said that. He said yesterday that`s (inaudible) anyone who is killing innocent Iraqis. It doesn`t matter whether they`re Sunni, Shia or whatever. Anyone who`s killing innocent Iraqis has to be dealt with and dealt with by the government. I think there`s a very strong commitment on the part of the Iraqi Government to deal with the lawlessness. There is certainly a commitment on the part of the United States to help them do it.
QUESTION: Are you willing to talk about Iraq with the Iranian and the Syrian in the future?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the Iraqis are talking to their neighbors and that`s wholly appropriate that they should talk to their neighbors. Their President was just in Iran, the Syrians were just in Baghdad to establish diplomatic relations. We have the International Compact which all of those states are part of the International Compact for Iraq. But let`s not be confused, the fact is it`s not the lack of contact with Syria and Iran, it`s the lack of action on the part of Syria and Iran to support Iraq rather than to destabilize Iraq.
We have talked to the Syrians many times in the past about what needs to be done, about cutting off the flow of foreign fighters, terrorists from Syrian territory into Iraq. We have talked to them about the importance of supporting this Iraqi Government, but the Iraqis are in the lead here on --
QUESTION: Foregoing security to the question of Palestine and Israelis and Lebanon as well, I want to just ask, and in a short answer if you don`t mind, did you do any mistakes in Iraq? There was a big wall between Iran and Iraq and now a lot of people see that Iranian have interfered in the Iraqis and even though Ahmadinejad is asking the President to deal with him directly of the question of Iraq.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think you will find that Iraqis don`t want to be controlled by Iran anymore than they wanted to be controlled by Saddam Hussein. And so I`m quite certain that if Iran is interested in neighborly relations with Iraq that are transparent that this will be fine. I don`t think Iraqis are going to commit Iran to control their future.
As to whether the United States has made mistakes, of course, I`m sure, we have. You can`t be involved in something as big as the liberation of a country like Iraq and all that has happened since, and I`m sure there are things that we could have done differently; but frankly, we are looking ahead. And when I`m back at Stanford University, I can look back and write books about what we might have done differently.
QUESTION: Dr. Rice, you met with Prime Minister Olmert, President Abbas. There was a promise -- President Bush promised the people, I don`t know, he does not like to give dates, but he promised that the Palestinians should have a state in 2005. Now the Palestinians are suffering. They feel people in the Arab world, you know, to be honest to you, they are angry from the American policy. Again, when we are going to see a Palestinian state?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, let`s remember that this is the first American President who declared the need for a Palestinian state and the roadmap had set some target dates, if everything unfolded, if all conditions were met. And frankly we`ve had to work because those conditions have not been met. But the reason that I went to see President Abbas and the reason that I went to see Prime Minister Olmert is that the United States is committed to a two-state solution. We would see nothing more important than to have an Israeli state and a Palestinian state living side by side in democracy and peace and freedom.
Now in order to get there, we have to take advantage of openings that we may have and we have a little opening now. One reason that I wanted to have these discussions was to talk about the importance of the ceasefire, to see if we can support the ceasefire and to see that ceasefire consolidated and extended is extremely important. Also Prime Minister Olmert gave a speech in which he reached out a hand to the Palestinians. We need to see if we can push that opening forward.
I want to say one thing to the Palestinian people, first and foremost, but also to the people of the region, this President wants to see a Palestinian state. We want to have the most intensive efforts that we can to try to bring that to be a reality. Palestinians and Israelis have responsibilities to make that a reality. We cannot create the circumstances. But the commitment of this Administration, the commitment of this President, my personal commitment over the next two years to try to make progress on a two-state solution is a very strong commitment because the Palestinian people have suffered too long. They do live in daily circumstances that are just not appropriate and they live in circumstances that for a people that have so much promise are very difficult. The Israelis also have the right to live in security. And so we want to work toward that two-state solution, which we think will be good for both Israelis and Palestinians.
QUESTION: Yes. This is a nice words or nice comment from you, Secretary Rice, but we need the truth. Is it the truth that you`re supporting the Israelis in the front of all Arabs? I`m talking about the people. I`m not talking about (inaudible).
SECRETARY RICE: We`re support -- we`re supporting peace --
QUESTION: I want to jump quickly --
SECRETARY RICE: No, no, but let me just comment. We`re supporting peace and we`re supporting a two-state solution. We support President Abbas in what he`s trying to do. We support --
QUESTION: You said he is weak.
SECRETARY RICE: I have never said --
QUESTION: I mean, that`s not true. I mean you hold him responsible --
SECRETARY RICE: No, let`s be very clear. President Abbas is a man of peace and he is a man who has the interest of the Palestinian people in his heart and he`s working for that interest. We are determined to support him, just as we want to support the Israelis in their effort to find (inaudible).
QUESTION: One last question about Lebanon. Also you said you`re supporting the Siniora government and at the same time, you lift all the air forces from the American workers in Israel to, you know, destroy Lebanon and the Lebanese. Today the Lebanese in the streets, they are -- the oppositions are in the streets against the Siniora government. So what`s your comment?
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah. Well, first of all, the opponents of the Siniora government, many of whom have foreign sponsors in Syria and Iran, are in the streets. But the Siniora supporters were in the streets a few days ago. And so let`s not forget how much support there is in Lebanon for the Siniora government. The United States is also, I personally and the President, very actively involved in getting a ceasefire that has led to an extraordinary circumstance in Lebanon: Lebanon`s forces deployed throughout the country; Lebanese in control of their own future; and foreign, but this time United Nations, forces there helping the Lebanese to secure their sovereignty. So yes, the war is a terrible thing.
QUESTION: So you are not afraid from a war in Lebanon, a secular war in Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq?
SECRETARY RICE: We believe that these people, whether they`re in the Palestinians territories, in Lebanon or in Iraq, want a unified future and we are determined to help them to get that democratic and peaceful future.
QUESTION: Dr. Rice, thank you very much for this interview.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.
QUESTION: And I hope I will do a bigger interview.
SECRETARY RICE: I look forward to meet with Al Arabiya again. It would be very good. Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you very much.