Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in the main policy speech of her first foreign trip, has urged France and other traditional U.S. allies to turn away from past disagreements over Iraq and open a new chapter in relations. Ms. Rice told a university audience in Paris spreading freedom, under the rule of law, is the best hope for world progress.
The venue for the speech, the Free School of Political Science in Paris, was a hotbed of criticism of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, in a country that opinion polls suggest still is skeptical of the Bush administration.
Ms. Rice told her audience of students, teachers and current and former French officials that Americans and Europeans have had their greatest successes when they refused to accept an unacceptable status quo and put their values to work for the cause of freedom.
She said the United States and Europe agree on the interwoven threats they face today, including terrorism, weapons proliferation, regional conflicts, failed states and organized crime, and that it is time now to turn away from the disagreements of the past.
"It is time to open a new chapter in our relationship, and a new chapter in our alliance,” she said. “America stands ready to work with Europe on our common agenda, and Europe must stand ready to work with America. After all, history will surely judge us not by our old disagreements, but by our new achievements."
Evoking the theme of President Bush's inaugural address last month, the Secretary of State said America and other democracies have an historic opportunity to shape a global balance of power that favors freedom.
She stressed she was using the word power in a broad sense, and that more important than military power is the power of ideas, compassion and hope.
On Iraq, Ms. Rice did not return to the debate over the invasion in 2003, instead citing the bravery and determination of Iraqis who defied suicide bombers, mortar attacks and death threats to cast votes January 30.
She said the western democracies must show them solidarity and generosity in equal measure, and support them as they form political institutions, and help them with economic reconstruction and development.
She said U.S.-led coalition forces must stay by their side and provide security for these tasks, until Iraqis themselves can take full ownership of that job.
As to the Iraqi insurgency, she said its leaders are among a radical minority who are trying to thwart an emerging trend toward democracy in the region:
"Today's radical Islamists are swimming against the tide of the human spirit,” she added. They grab the headlines with their ruthless brutality, and they can be brutal. But they are dwelling on the outer fringes of a great world religion, and they are radicals of a special sort. They are in revolt against the future. The face of terrorism in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, called democracy an evil principle."
The secretary hailed the recent movement toward reviving the Middle East peace process, and said Tuesday's Egyptian-hosted summit of the Israeli and Palestinian leaders was clearly an important step forward.
Ms. Rice, who held her own talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas earlier this week, said no one has illusions about the difficulties that lie ahead and the deep differences to overcome.
She said she stressed to both sides the need to end terrorism, and said all concerned parties should make it clear that Iran and Syria must stop supporting terrorists who, in her words, seek to destroy every chance for peace.
The secretary cited U.S.-French cooperation in achieving the U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an end to the presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon and said Lebanon should be allowed to have fair and competitive parliamentary elections this spring, without foreign interference.
She said despite their well-publicized rift over Iraq, the United States and France are working closely together on other matters, including Afghanistan and Kosovo and joked that U.S.-French relations are far better in practice, than they are in theory.