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U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was interviewed for Global Viewpoint by Sonni Efron, Tyler Marshall, Paul Richter and Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times' Washington bureau on March 24.

Question: You've taken American diplomacy into a revived multilateralism, but it's not the old formalistic process-based multilateralism. It seems to be a multilateralism focused more upon coalition building and coalitions of the willing. How would you define your approach?

Condoleezza Rice: The first thing is that we need always to proceed from what it is we're trying to do and then let process follow what it is that you're trying to do. There is no doubt that in order to capitalize on the trends toward democratization that are now out, there need to be efforts that are multilateral, efforts that have partners.

The weight, if you will, is on those of us who are fortunate enough to be on the right side of freedom. And so I spent a good deal of time on my recent European trip, and frankly on my Asian trip as well, appealing to other democracies to take an active role with us in helping to create conditions in which people can realize these aspirations.

I want to be very clear. You can impose tyranny. Nobody can impose democracy. It's our fundamental belief that you don't have to impose democracy. Democracy comes up when people have the belief that it's possible, and when you can create conditions in which it's possible. So whether it's Afghanistan or Iraq or the Palestinian territories or Lebanon, the role of those of us in the international system is to help create an environment in which those people can then act.

That's been the most important and the central part of what we've been trying to do, starting more than a year ago and culminating in the president's inaugural address.

In dealing with challenges that are out there, it's not a matter of whether there are coalitions of the willing or the international institutions. Rather, you have to decide what it is you're trying to do. If the goal is to have a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula, and if you can get the neighbors to agree that there ought to be a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula, then your strongest forum in which to do that is one in which the neighbors all sit as equals, and one in which you have different kinds of leverage you can bring to bear on the problem.

In this case, we have some leverage. The Chinese have more, and a different kind of leverage. The South Koreans have a different kind of leverage. The Japanese have a different kind of leverage. The Russians have a different kind of leverage. And you can bring those all together in the six-party talks. The North Koreans, obviously, would like it to be bilateral because then they don't have to face the Chinese and the Russians and all the rest.

In Iran,the European Union-3(France, Germany and Great Britain — ed.) have taken the lead. The United States then can support the EU-3 diplomacy. American leadership is essential in international politics, but it doesn't always mean that the United States has to be in the lead on each and every single issue.

Sometimes we should work in a regional grouping, like we're doing in the six-party talks and like we did for tsunami relief. Sometimes I think we'll find ourselves working through the United Nations, as we're trying to do on Sudan. Sometimes I think we will find ourselves working directly with the Europeans, as we have on Iran.

Question: Where does the settlements issue stand now with Israel?

Rice: Let me start by painting the broader picture. This is going to be an extremely important four- or five-month period ahead up through the fall. We have the Palestinian elections for parliament, which are expected to take place later in the spring or early summer when you are going to have the beginning of the Israeli disengagement plan.

So we're in a period of historic circumstances where we really need to keep all of the parties focused on the work ahead of them. If you have a successful disengagement from the Gaza; if, in fact, you have the building of Palestinian institutions that are transparent and accountable; if, in fact, you have the international community rally around the Palestinians the way they promised to do at the recent London meeting that was sponsored by Prime Minister (Tony) Blair, then we're going to be in a fundamentally different situation in several months.

We will be very advanced in terms of where we are in relationship to the road map. It's extremely important to keep that big picture in mind when raising issues about settlement activity.

Now, our position on settlement activity has not changed. We have said to the Israelis that they have obligations under the road map; they have obligations not to increase settlement activity. We expect, in particular, that they are going to be careful about anything — route of the fence, settlement activity, laws — that would appear to prejudge a final status agreement, and it's concerning that this (the announced settlement expansion— ed.) is where it is,around Jerusalem. But we've noted our concern to the Israelis. We will continue to note that this is at odds with American policy.

Question: You noted your concerns to the Israelis. Did you get what you consider a satisfactory response?

Rice: Well, I think that we got a response. I think anything that raises the prospect that you're going to have an expansion of settlements in this way, particularly in a sensitive area, is not really a satisfactory response. But we're going to continue to talk to the Israelis about it and we've got some time before any of this would actually take place.

Question: There is also some concern that there's an awful lot resting on the shoulders of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, aka Abu Mazen. Is that a worry for you? How do you deal with that?

Rice: Well, there is certainly a lot resting on Abu Mazen's shoulders and it's resting there for a good reason: The Palestinian people went to the polls and they elected him. And they elected him on a platform that was clearly one that rejected the armed intifada and talked about the need to have a road to peace. So there's no doubt that there's a lot resting on his shoulders.

That's why we are very focused on helping the Palestinians build institutions because your point is right: It shouldn't rest on one person's shoulder. But obviously early in the development of democratic institutions it's very often the case that an awful lot rests on one or two or a few individuals.

We're very focused on the institution-building process for exactly that reason. We're working with the finance ministry to make sure that they continue to press the transparency measures there so that foreign assistance can be well spent. There are plans that are being discussed for how you would rehabilitate and reconstruct Gaza once the Israelis leave. The European Union is very involved in helping the Palestinians with the formation of political structures. And we have, through General (William) Ward (the new U.S. “security coordinator” in the region — ed.), a process to help the Palestinians build security forces that are accountable.

So it's not that people are unaware of the need for institutions, but they are just barely in the post-Arafat phase here. You just have to go through a process now of building those institutions as rapidly as possible.

I might note that there's also a lot resting on the Israelis at this point. The historic decision to withdraw from Gaza and from the four settlements in the West Bank is a decision that has not been uniformly popular in Israel. It raises a number of issues for the Israeli population. And the Israelis also have to get through this fundamentally new period.

It's all very fragile. There is no doubt about it. That's why the United States is intensively involved to try to help the parties. But it is fragile on the right side of the ledger; in other words, I think we have a better chance now than we've had in a very long time. Even in this fragile period the turnover of Jericho and Tulkarem has taken place. The Palestinians have not done all that we would hope to see in terms of the terrorist organizations, but they've actually deployed the security forces, they've arrested some people. So we're making some progress — or they're making some progress. And it might just be interesting to note that they're making progress bilaterally between themselves, which is really the best process.

Question: Is there a connection between the settlements and the Gaza pullout? Do you think that settlement expansion may be giving Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a bit of room domestically?

Rice: Our view is that our policy remains the same on the settlements. The president made very clear in his April 14meetings with Prime Minister Sharon that while we recognize that there have been changed circumstances on the ground in the time since '67, that this is all to be negotiated between the parties.

Question: On Iran, the Europeans are arguing that time is now on our side — that with the agreement for a freeze and with the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) monitoring the freeze, it's the Iranians who are in a hurry to get a deal and that they are effectively contained. Do you accept that, and does that mean that we do have time to negotiate onward?

Rice: Well, it's always better to resolve these things as soon as you can, not later, because Iran is a very closed society. It does have people going back and forth. It was a dissident group that exposed Natanz (an Iranian nuclear site — ed). So you have some sources of information but they are by no means perfect, so you want as soon as possible to get a handle on the Iranian program.

I do think that we made a lot of progress over the last several weeks. In Europe, we found the conversation had shifted to what the United States was going to do rather than what the Iranians were going to do.This is now clearly back on the ground that the Iranians have certain obligations to meet. There is a unified view of what those obligations are, and there is a unified approach to getting the Iranians to live up to those obligations.

And so we're certainly in better shape than we were several weeks ago. I would hope that the Iranians would want to demonstrate sooner rather than later that they really do now intend to live up to those obligations,because a lot is riding on it.

Question: Are you comfortable that the current freeze amounts to containment of the Iranian program?

Rice: I do not think you can ever be certain of any such thing. It is better than nothing to have a freeze, obviously. But the real goal here has to be that the Iranians make a choice that they are not going to engage in activities that heighten suspicion that they're trying to get a nuclear weapon under cover of civilian nuclear program. And there are some very clear steps they could take to do that, and they have to be steps that are not easily reversible.

It's a better place than we were a little while ago. And that's because the world is unified. While we don't understand why the Iranians would want civilian nuclear power at all given their tremendous energy reserves, at least the Russian agreement also speaks to the question of proliferation risk in terms of fuel take-backs and provision of fuel rather than allowing the Iranians to reprocess.

Question: The approach toward Iran is they are not allowed to enrich uranium. Is this a new interpretation by the administration that all signatory states to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) treaty should no longer be allowed to enrich, or are you setting aside a category of states to which this would apply?

Rice: The president has said that he thought to reduce proliferation risk it would be best if there were essentially no more enrichment and reprocessing. The G-8 agreed then to promote a one-year moratorium.

Now we understand that this is complicated because there are states who point out that the NPT says states who are in good standing in the NPT should have access to civilian nuclear power development. It's a question of how one interprets civilian nuclear power development. There are lots of ways to develop civilian nuclear power without reprocessing and enriching. You could have provision of fuel by, for example, the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

One thing the president looks forward to is continuing discussions about how we close this loophole in the NPT, because it is a loophole that countries, including the North Koreans, have used to gain access to civilian nuclear power while continuing activities that were closed and unclear.

I think there has been some interest in the high levels of the IAEA in this same kind of idea, and everybody recognizes that there is a proliferation risk associated with reprocessing and enrichment.

Question: U.S. officials in Iraq have from time to time raised questions with their Iraqi counterparts about the presence of Iranian influence. What's your level of concern about that issue? A new government is about to be formed. Will there be an important Iranian influence in it?

Rice: It is members of the Iraqi government who have most often raised the Iranian issue. Iran is Iraq's neighbor. They have not had particularly good relations over the years, but it's a neighbor, and so we would be the first to say that we would hope there would be good, transparent relations between Iran and Iraq.

But that does not mean that the kind of activities that Iranian security forces might carry on, or activities that might be aimed at destabilizing the environment or influencing the course of affairs in a non-transparent way, would be welcome. There's a distinction here between relations with Iran, which are going to happen because it's a neighbor, and non-transparent relations with Iran.

A number of people in Iraq sought exile in Iran and have relations with Iran. But I don't detect from most of the key leaders in Iraq any desire to exchange the yoke of Saddam Hussein for the yoke of (Iran's Ayatollah) Khamenei. I just don't detect that. The Iraqis have a very different tradition in terms of the role of clerics. You might have noticed what the Iraqi Shia have said about the role of clerics, even in this coming new government. It is quite different from the Iranian tradition.

There are also cultural and other differences between them. If the Iraqis are left to their own devices, they will find an Iraqi way to incorporate Islam into a democratic path of development, not seek to mimic in any way what the Iranians have done. And so this is really a question about letting the Iraqis have their own path to the relationship between democracy and Islam.

Question: A few weeks ago, you said that the United States was very concerned about the jailing of Ayman Nour, the Egyptian opposition figure. He's out of jail now, but he's facing criminal charges on forgery. How do you feel about his situation now? And also, having had a few weeks to talk to the Egyptians about President Hosni Mubarak's initiative on multiparty elections, does that look like a real step forward toward democracy?

Rice: On multiparty elections, it's still an unfolding story. I do believe that the Egyptians understand that people are watching to see how this will unfold; that real reform is expected now by the international community. This takes place in a context in which there is a lot of change in the region, in which you've had elections in Iraq, in which you've had elections in the Palestinian territories, in which the Saudis are making some moves toward limited elections, although we would hope that at some point in time those would be more than limited, particularly concerning the role of women.

So it's a changed circumstance, a changed environment, and I think the Egyptians understand that people are looking to see that these are real reforms that will have an impact on how elections are actually carried out.

The president always said that this process of democratization will happen at a pace that is different in different societies. But in many ways, a sophisticated, great culture like Egypt, he has said, could lead in this regard, much as they've led in the search for peace by signing the peace treaty with Israel. So we're watching, we're encouraged and we're encouraging the Egyptians to make real reforms. But we will see.

As to Ayman Nour, I'm glad that he's out of jail. That's a good thing. And the issue of what happens from here on out is also going to be watched very carefully in terms of rule of law and the way that this transpires.

Question: On Darfur, the United States, of course, has gotten the most credit for being the most active doing something. But given what's happening recently, it seems that the Sudanese are, in fact, getting away with what the United States has called genocide.

Is this an example of the United Nations basically failing? Will you be continuing the efforts that so far have been futile to get the Chinese and the Russians to actually do something about this, or do you plan to, outside the U.N. process, do something about this situation?

Rice: We've taken a three-pronged approach on Darfur. First, we have tried to deal with the humanitarian situation, to simply alleviate the suffering. And we've put a lot of money into it. We've worked with the Libyans to have another supply route. It was going pretty well for a while. I think there's been some slowing in that over the last month or so. We're very concerned about it, and we're pressing that issue very hard with Khartoum because the first goal here has to be to try to save lives, and so we are trying on the humanitarian side.

Secondly, we are working with the African Union to try to strengthen their capability for monitoring because it's understood that where there is monitoring, there seems to be less violence. And so we'd like to at least get to the ceiling, which had been 3,400 A.U. monitors, though I understand now that the Sudanese have said maybe 5 or 6,000. We need to get that organized and get those monitors in.

The third element has been to work through the United Nations to, first of all, try to solidify the north-south agreement so that you have a unified Sudanese government with responsibility and a possibility to deal with this situation. We made some progress. Hopefully, there will be a resolution voted on peacekeeping (perhaps today, Thursday — ed.). That would allow about 10,000 peacekeepers. And that would be a very good step forward.

We also have a sanctions resolution that we think would bring additional pressure on Khartoum. We have been, frankly, disappointed that there are those who don't seem to see the need for this kind of sanctions resolution. We're working with the Chinese and the Russians and others who have been reluctant to have one, and hopefully we can get a sanctions resolution fairly soon.

The question about accountability is still there. We, obviously, care a great deal about accountability. There are differences not just with us and the Europeans about accountability but also with several Africans — including Nigerian President ( Olusegun) Obasanjo, who is the head of the A.U. — who say they would rather have an African tribunal of some kind. So there are wide variations in what people think accountability means,but there is no variation in the fact that everybody wants to see accountability for war crimes in Sudan.

Now, ultimately, this is only going to get resolved if you have some kind of political process in which all parties in Sudan disarm themselves and become part of the political process. In order for that to happen, the Khartoum government has simply got to stop the violence of those militias that are associated with it. There also has to be pressure on the rebels to stop the violence. Then, the context for the political discussions that the A.U. is sponsoring might improve.

We've have obviously tried to give visibility to Darfur. Secretary (Colin) Powell went there. We will continue to try to raise visibility because this is really just a horrible situation and the world needs to be focused on it and we need to move quickly.

Question: One of the interesting features of the foreign policy landscape now is that the principal debate over American foreign policy is among Republicans of different tendencies. And one of the people who is occasionally critical of this administration is Brent Scowcroft, your mentor and the national security adviser to the president's father. Has that caused any discomfort in your long friendship with him? Have you had a chance to sit down with him since you became secretary?

Rice: I've probably had dinner with Brent at least half a dozen times over the last couple years or so. Brent and I are good friends. And while sometimes I think he doesn't agree with everything that we do, this is not somebody whose commitment to values and democracy I would question. He might at times think that we should do it differently or — but I always find him a tremendously wise kind of sounding board because, as I used to say to my students at Stanford, "If you're always in the company of people who absolutely agree on everything with you, you're in the wrong company." It doesn't hone your thinking to constantly hear, "Oh yes, that's right, oh you're so smart, oh yeah, that's absolutely the way it should be." What good is that?

I like to have spirited discussion and debate about where it is we're going because that's the only way that you can make sure that you're not simply living in a kind of bubble.

Question: What's the biggest point of conflict you have with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld?

Rice: There isn't a point of conflict.

Look, we have a really good relationship. We've been friends for a long time. And the best thing about Don and about me and our relationship is that we can be absolutely straightforward about whether we agree about something or whether we don't agree about something

We expect from time to time to have differing views of a particular issue and to work together and try to resolve them and to talk it through. But the idea that you would go through a period as monumental as the one that we've just been through and everybody would have agreed about every step is just unfathomable.

(c) 2005, Global Viewpoint
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