Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a year-end news conference Friday, left open the prospect of better relations with U.S. adversaries North Korea, Iran and Syria before the end of the Bush administration. Rice told reporters the United States doesn't have permanent enemies. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
The secretary of state made no attempt to minimize ongoing disputes, especially those with Iran over its nuclear program and ties to radical elements in the Middle East.
Rice would not rule out the possibility that the last year of the Bush administration might yield better relations with and possible visits to longtime adversaries like North Korea, Iran and Syria.
"We don't have permanent enemies, the United States doesn't," she said. "What we have is a policy that is open to ending conflict and confrontation with any country that is willing to meet us on those terms. And we've given very clear paths, with our allies, it's not a unilateral U.S, policy."
Rice reiterated an offer of open-ended dialogue with her Iranian counterpart at any time or venue, provided the Tehran government met international demands to stop uranium enrichment.
At the same time, she rejected recent suggestions by some policy analysts that the United States engage with Iran without conditions.
She said the demand that Tehran halt enrichment is enshrined in multiple resolutions by the U.N. Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency and reflects broad skepticism about Iran's professions of peaceful nuclear intentions.
"Why is it that this is at the center of the international effort on Iran? And it is because Iran should not be allowed to practice enrichment and reprocessing in order to solve the engineering problem of keeping (uranium centrifuge) cascades going in sequence so that they can learn to enrich, at first four percent, then 15 percent, then 50 percent, and eventually 98 percent and have fissile material for a nuclear weapon," she said.
Rice said the six-party accord, under which North Korea is to scrap its nuclear program in exchange for energy aid and diplomatic benefits, provides a clear pathway toward better political relation between Pyongyang and Washington.
She said she expects North Korea to honor the pledge it made in the Chinese-sponsored talks to make a complete and accurate declaration of all its nuclear programs, as required by year's end.
As to Syria, Rice noted that despite strains in the relationship, the United State invited Damascus to the Annapolis Middle East peace conference last month at which Syria was allowed to make its case for a comprehensive regional accord that would return the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to Syria.
Rice said the gesture has not yet been reciprocated by better Syrian behavior, especially in what the United States sees as Syrian efforts to prolong the political impasse in Lebanon over electing a new president.
"There are those who had hoped that Syria would show a more constructive attitude toward the region as a whole, having started down this path," she noted. "That has not yet happened and it is extremely important that Lebanon, the Lebanese, be able to go to their parliament and elect a president. By all accounts they have a consensus candidate that they believe they can elect. And one has to ask why can't they get to the parliament and elect this president?"
Rice said Syria should prevail upon its Lebanese allies to let the election proceed and end a political crisis described as the most dangerous in Lebanon since the end of its civil war in 1990.
She said it is key to get the process right. The statement seems to leave open the possibility that North Korea could miss the deadline without derailing the deal.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP an d AP.