U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the United States does not desire to be what she calls "the world's jailer," but she says the war on terrorism has presented new and difficult challenges in dealing with potential threats. Rice spoke during a tour of northwest England.
The secretary of state discussed terrorism and the U.S. goal of promoting democracy in the Middle East during a foreign policy address in the city of Blackburn, the home constituency of her host, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.
She recognized the controversy in Britain and Europe over the indefinite detention of terrorist suspects by the U.S. military, and she says it is a difficult situation.
"We have no desire to be the world's jailer," she said. "We want the terrorists that we capture to stand trial for their crimes."
However, Rice indicated there is strong public opinion within the United States to support whatever measures are necessary to prevent a repetition of the September 11, 2001, attacks.
"Our citizens will judge us harshly, if we release a captured terrorist before we are absolutely certain that he does not possess information that could prevent a future attack, or even worse, if we meet that terrorist again on the battlefield," she said.
The British government has long been uncomfortable with the U.S. policy of holding terrorist suspects indefinitely at the American naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Prime Minister Tony Blair has called the situation an "anomaly," and Britain got nine of its citizens released from Guantanamo. Britain is also pressing for the release of an Iraqi who holds British residency.
Straw invited Rice to northwest England to reciprocate for a tour he took last year in her home state of Alabama.
British anti-war protesters demonstrated at various venues the two officials visited Friday. Rice cited the protests to pitch her policy of promoting democracy around the world.
"People have the right to protest," she said. "That's what democracy is all about, and I'm just delighted that, in more and more of the world, those rights to speak your mind are being extended to other people, for whom that right has not been there."
Leaders of a Blackburn mosque withdrew an invitation for Rice to visit there, out of concern that Iraq war protesters would make a scene. Her plans for a meeting with local Muslim leaders were not affected.