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Rice: Direct Talks With Iran, Syria Not on US Agenda


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says direct talks with Iran and Syria on stabilizing Iraq are "not an issue" being considered by the Bush administration.

Washington has accused Tehran and Damascus of destabilizing Iraq by providing support to anti-U.S. insurgents and rival sectarian militias.

In an interview with the French News Agency, AFP, Rice also says Washington will not compromise its support for Lebanon's moderate government in return for assistance by Iran and Syria in other areas, such as Iraq.

Rice says the world community will never accept Syria reasserting authority over Lebanon. She accuses Damascus of conspiring with Lebanese extremist forces to try to bring down Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

When asked if she has any regrets about the Iraq war, Rice said she is "very proud" of her role in liberating Iraqis from the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Rice was President Bush's national security adviser during the planning and execution of the U.S.-led invasion. She became secretary of state in January 2005.

Secretary Rice says she feels a "personal responsibility" for the current wave of sectarian violence in Iraq, which she describes as "very bad" and "hard to take".

But, Rice also says she has a responsibility to support the Iraqi people as they struggle to build a new society out of the ruins of Saddam's dictatorial rule.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.