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Condoleezza Rice Downplays Speculation on Vice Presidential Run 

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is downplaying recent media reports that she might be a potential running mate for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain. Rice says she wants to return to the faculty of Stanford University after the current administration ends. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

Rice, who was President Bush's national security adviser before becoming secretary of state, was seen by some political analysts two years ago as a potential Republican presidential candidate for 2008.

She consistently dismissed the idea of having presidential ambitions, and now - with the Republican nomination assured for Senator McCain - she is downplaying talk that she might be interested in being the party's vice presidential nominee.

The latest flurry of speculation about Rice was spurred by a weekend assertion by a Republican political operative, Dan Senor, that Rice has been "actively campaigning" for the second spot on the Republican ticket.

Senor, the former spokesman for the U.S. provisional authority in Iraq, told a television interview show Rice had promoted her interest in running by, among other things, recently meeting privately with a conservative Republican policy group.

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack tried to quash the speculation Monday, saying Rice has made her dis-interest in being Vice President clear on many occasions.

Rice took a question on the issue at a joint news conference Tuesday with the foreign ministers of Canada and Mexico, Maxime Bernier and Patricia Espinosa.

She heaped praise on Senator McCain but insisted she has no plans to run with him.

"Senator McCain is an extraordinary American, a really outstanding leader, and obviously a great patriot," she said. "That said, I'm going back to Stanford, back to California, west of the Mississippi. I very much look forward to watching this campaign and voting as a voter."

Rice was a top administrator at Stanford University and has stressed that she is only technically on leave from the prestigious California school.

Despite her claims of disinterest, Rice has discussed domestic political issues more frequently of late, including race relations.

She is the top-ranking African-American and woman in the Bush administration and is seen by some political observers as someone who would bring demographic balance to the Republican ticket, if Senator Barak Obama wins the Democratic nomination.

Other analysts however argue that having Rice on the ticket would link Senator McCain too closely to the invasion of Iraq and other unpopular actions by the Bush administration.

Rice herself told the Washington Times newspaper a few days ago that "it is time for new blood" in Republican politics.

Senator McCain for his part has been complementary of Rice, calling her overall record very meritorious. But he said Sunday that if Rice is sending signals that she wants to be his running mate, he has missed them.