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Rice Stresses Democracy as Key to Defeating Iraq Insurgency


Condoleezza Rice

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday building democracy and capable security forces in Iraq is a difficult proposition, but that the U.S. commitment is open-ended. She was responding to a report of new pessimism about the Iraqi situation among U.S. military commanders.

Ms. Rice is acknowledging the difficulty of the current situation. But she insists progress is being made, and that the United States remains committed to helping Iraq's government maintain security until it is capable of doing so on its own.

The comments by the Secretary of State at a news conference with Kuwait's foreign minister came in response to a New York Times report that U.S. commanders in Iraq, disappointed by the performance of new Iraqi units, have become less optimistic about prospects for an early draw-down of American troops.

The Times said U.S. generals were pulling back from forecasts that a withdrawal could begin later this year and suggesting the American military role could last many years.

Ms. Rice, who paid her first visit to Iraq as Secretary last weekend to meet key government officials, said there is no doubt that the Iraqi insurgents, whom she described as determined terrorists, are trying hard to uproot and to unravel the political process underway.

She said that since insurgencies are defeated as much politically as militarily, the United States is focused on helping move Iraq as expeditiously as possible toward a democracy that encompasses all its religious and ethnic factions.

"The [Kuwaiti] foreign minister and I did have discussions about the importance of an Iraqi political process that is inclusive of all Iraqis, a process in the constitution-drafting that is inclusive of all Iraqis as an answer to those who would try and derail this process. So it's a difficult proposition that the Iraqis are engaged in."

Ms. Rice said as troubled as the current state of affairs may be, it is preferable to what she termed the national nightmare of Saddam Hussein and said her Kuwaiti colleague, whose country was invaded by the former dictator, would attest to that.

In addition to Iraq, the secretary's meeting with the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed Sabah al-Sabah, also covered Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and the vote by Kuwait's National Assembly early this week, applauded by the United States, giving full political rights to women.

Sheikh al-Sabah said Kuwait's ruling Emir had been trying to win parliamentary approval for women's suffrage since 1999.

"At that time it was defeated by our parliament by just two votes. Six years later we managed to convince the parliament to vote to vote in favor of the bill and, thank God, now all Kuwaitis are participating in shaping the future of our society. His highness is extremely pleased and delighted that finally all his citizens are able to participate in the political process."

The Kuwaiti foreign minister said his government shares a commitment with the United States for a two-state settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict under the international peace road map.

He said the Kuwaiti government, after years of chilly relations with the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, has resumed financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority and is preparing for a visit by the new Palestinian chief Mahmoud Abbas.

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