Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Tuesday lamented what she said has been an effective boycott by the world community of support for the war crimes prosecution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Addressing a policy research group, Ms. Rice also renewed U.S. criticism of Iran for alleged meddling in Iraqi affairs.
The secretary of state gave a generally up-beat assessment of international financial support for Iraqi reconstruction and democratization efforts.
But in an appearance at the conservative Washington policy group, the Heritage Foundation, Ms. Rice faulted the commitment of Iraq's Gulf neighbors, who she said should be doing a lot more.
And she accused the international community of all but ignoring pleas to assist the war crimes prosecution of Saddam Hussein and other members of his regime, a stance she suggested is harming efforts by Iraqis to turn a new democratic page in their history.
"I'm sad to say that the international community has barely done anything to help Iraq prosecute Saddam Hussein," said Ms. Rice. "All who express their devotion to human rights and rule of law have a special obligation to help the Iraqis bring to justice one of the world's most murderous tyrants. The international community's effective boycott of Saddam's trial is only harming the Iraqi people, who are now working to secure the hope of justice and freedom that Saddam long denied them."
The war crimes prosecution in Iraq has largely been underwritten by the United States, with U.S. and British non-governmental organizations providing training for Iraqi court personnel.
The secretary of State said democracy building in Iraq is drawing growing support from Arab countries, notably Jordan, Kuwait and Qatar.
But she said some countries in the region are showing themselves to be no friends of the Iraqi people.
Those, she said, are Syria which has still not taken sufficient action to stop terrorists who cross into Iraq from its territory, and Iran, which she said continues to meddle in Iraqi affairs and to support violence in Iraqi society.
Pressed later by a questioner about Iranian activity in Iraq, Ms. Rice cited British concerns that Iran may have provided technology to enhance the capability of insurgents operating in the southern part of the country.
She said U.S. officials know the Iranians want to be involved in non-transparent ways in Iraqi politics, but also said she does not believe Iraqis in the post-Saddam era are interested in Iranian-style theocratic rule.
"I don't have any sense that the Iraqis wish to trade the tyranny of Saddam Hussein for the tyranny of the mullahs in Iran," she added. "Iraqis are proud people. They are a great culture in their own right. They are a people for whom religious difference has been a source of division and violence. But it doesn't have to be."
Ms. Rice said Iraq has a history of cultural diversity and as the country becomes stronger, through, among other things, the current electoral process, Iran will in her words, find it more difficult to do what it is trying to do.
In the near term, she said the international community needs to draw attention to Iranian activity, saying that transparent Iranian relations with Iraq are absolutely acceptable, but meddling is not.
The secretary of State said Iran more broadly is a country that is out of step with the political direction of the Middle East, and that the contradictions have been sharpened by recent statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Ms. Rice said it needs to be said that the Iranian regime is a problem for a stable and democratizing Middle East and that the international community will have to find a way to deal with it.