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US Officials Speak on Arabic TV - 2001-10-16


Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld gives an interview later Tuesday to the Arabic satellite television channel al-Jazeera. On Monday, White House National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice went before al-Jazeera cameras. It is all part of an effort by the Bush administration to get its message to an Arabic-language audience in the Middle East.

In interviews with al-Jazeera, Bush administration officials are stressing a common theme: that the United States is fighting terrorism, not Islam or the Arab people.

Condoleezza Rice told an al-Jazeera reporter this is a fight against evil people who willingly take the lives of civilians in terrorist attacks against office buildings or the Pentagon. She said Islam is a peaceful religion that respects human life.

Ms. Rice was also asked about America's role in the Mideast peace process. She outlined existing Bush administration policy, including the belief that a Palestinian state could emerge from a peace agreement if there is also respect for Israel's right to exist.

Before she taped the interview with al-Jazeera, Condoleezza Rice took part in a question and answer session with White House reporters. She was asked why so many top administration officials had agreed to speak to the Arabic satellite television channel. "We do think it is important that we get our message out to Arab publics and we know this is a network that is very popular with Arab publics," she said.

In recent weeks the White House has been critical of al-Jazeera for running long videotaped statements from suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden or spokesmen for his al-Qaida organization. But during her interview, Ms. Rice said she would not appear on al-Jazeera if she did not respect it.

Al-Jazeera has a request pending for an interview with President Bush. It is unclear if the White House will agree, or will let other officials continue to speak for the administration.

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