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Transcript: VOA Interview with Condoleezza Rice

FEBRUARY 25, 2003

Mr. Stearns: Ms. Rice, thanks for being with us.

Dr. Rice: Nice to be with you.

Mr. Stearns: The Security Council is facing some tough choices on Iraq. There are some states who believe President Bush is more interested in regime change than disarmament. What do you say to those states? Why should they support the U.S. resolution, which says that Saddam has missed his final opportunity, over the French memorandum, which would intensify those inspections?

Dr. Rice: I would remind all states that we have been in this struggle with Saddam Hussein not for four months, which is the time at which Resolution 1441 was passed, but for 12 years. And to say that there needs to be more time now or more inspections is simply going to get us back into the same kind of game that we've been in with Saddam Hussein for that 12 years.

He has successfully held off disarmament. He has successfully split the Council. I would remind [you] that Resolution 1284, which was passed in 1999, actually the French and the Russians and the Chinese abstained from that resolution. And so this is a long, long period of time, and it's really time for the Iraqi people to have an opportunity to rejoin the international community. It's time for the world to be rid of the threat of this homicidal dictator with weapons of mass destruction. And it's time for the region to have a chance to return to a more normal life.

Mr. Stearns: Do you see any reason why Saddam Hussein would disarm now, at the 11th hour, or is war now just a matter of time?

Dr. Rice: We certainly always hope that the Iraqis will somehow decide that they are finally going to, after 12 years, live up to their disarmament obligations. It wouldn't be hard. We know what it looks like when a country wants to disarm. It looks like what South Africa did ?? to invite the international community in ?? not to try to hunt and peck and find things, but to actually expose completely the entire range of weapon systems and people and programs, research programs, so that the world can see that disarmament is actually taking place.

But I would have to say that that would mean a Saddam Hussein who had tremendously changed his spots. It's hard to imagine now. And I would expect that he is going to engage in some game?playing over the next couple of weeks. He'll start trying to show a little bit of cooperation, a little bit of progress. Perhaps he will bring out this weapon that he destroys or that weapon that he destroys. Because now that he is under tremendous pressure, he has a lot of incentive to again get back into this game. But the world should not be fooled. We need total and complete disarmament.

Mr. Stearns: Are there Security Council members who perhaps inadvertently are abetting that game?playing by offering to give him more time?

Dr. Rice: I have to say that offering more time at this point really only plays into Saddam's hands. I won't question anyone's motives. I think everybody is trying to do this according to their own views of the situation. But if you just look at what Saddam Hussein and his regime said after the Friday meeting in the Security Council, they took tremendous heart in a Security Council meeting in which there seemed to be more focus on avoiding tough decisions than on taking tough decisions.

Tariq Aziz said all of the good people of the world were in the streets protesting. And of course the good people were in the streets not protesting for Saddam Hussein but I can guarantee you that that's how the Iraqis played it and that's how they played it to their own people. And so it's extremely important that the world stand with one voice, say to Saddam Hussein: You were given a final opportunity to disarm and it is time to do that or to face the consequences.

Mr. Stearns: If the U.N. proves irrelevant in the President's mind on Iraq, is there any reason for the United States to continue to be a member of a costly irrelevance?

Dr. Rice: Well, certainly the United Nations is a tremendous institution. It's one that the United States helped to create. Of course, it was founded, and its founding conference was, in San Francisco. And so it does many, many good things. And certainly the programs of the United Nations ?? UNICEF, we've just rejoined UNESCO ?? we believe in the United Nations.

But what will lose its relevance is the Security Council. What will be shown to be more like the League of Nations than the United Nations is the Security Council. It's the enforcement mechanism that gives the international community a way to stand up to the horrible dictators, to those who are proliferating weapons of mass destruction, to those who are threatening peace and security. It is the Security Council that gives the international community the ability, as one, to stand up to that.

And if we allow Saddam Hussein to continue to defy the Security Council in the way that he has, the Security Council will be severely weakened.

Mr. Stearns: After September 11th, there was a feeling in the early war cabinet that the administration should look at the tragedy as an opportunity to improve relations with some countries that may have been put off by some of the President's early apparent unilateralism on ABM or Kyoto and that, despite the appetites of some at the table, the President largely chose to keep Iraq out of the buildup for Afghanistan because it was felt that that might weaken the resolve that had come together for Afghanistan. Is the President now spending some of the international political capital that he gained after September 11th to make sure that Iraq is resolved the way he wants, one way or the other?

Dr. Rice: The President is doing what leaders do. He has gone to the international community to put on its agenda in a very dramatic way the need to deal with the threat of Iraq and the threat of Saddam Hussein. He did it in the United Nations. We've repeatedly gone back to the United Nations. Secretary Powell gave his presentation of the case at the United Nations. And now we are requesting a second resolution or ?? I should say ?? really an 18th resolution since Saddam has ignored many resolutions before.

So, the President is leading in a way that is far from unilateral. It's the exact opposite of unilateral; it's multilateral. And there are a lot of countries that are with us.

One of the very interesting things has been to see how the countries that were denied freedom for so long, the countries of Eastern Europe, like Poland and Hungary or the Baltic States, or Bulgaria or Rumania, all of those countries that for so long were denied freedom, they're speaking up now for freedom. They are saying that when tyranny is ignored, tyranny wins. And they have the histories and the scars to prove that that is the case.

We think that those voices need to be heard in the international community. They need to be heard in the debate, because they really know what liberty and freedom means.

Fifty years ago, Western Europe was itself in a similar situation, with tyranny spreading across the region, and the United States came to their aid. And, as a result, we've had a prosperous and well?to?do and secure half of Europe since the end of World War II. But then, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, we were able to see that liberty spread. And it has been just tremendous, through NATO and through the voices of these countries, to see that they really do understand what it means to defend freedom.

Mr. Stearns: On North Korea, does the President feel that Beijing could do more to try to convince Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons programs? After all, he is often criticized for being unilateralist; here he is taking a multilateralist approach, as you say, on North Korea, but multilateralism means that other people have to pull their weight.

Dr. Rice: That's right. It's ironic that we are trying so hard to get everyone in the world to react to the North Korean situation in a multilateral way. This is the least unilateral thing that you can do, because the North Koreans would like nothing better than to have the United States to have to come to the North Koreans and to do this in a bilateral fashion, and to make this a crisis between the United States and North Korea. That would achieve the goal that Kim Jong?Il has of being rewarded for the blackmail in which he is now engaging.

But the United States really believes not only that it's important not to reward blackmail but that we can only resolve this issue in a multilateral forum. The fact is that China and Russia and Japan and South Korea, indeed, all of the countries of the world, have a great deal at stake here. And Secretary Powell was just with the Chinese. We will continue to impress upon China and others that they have not just a tremendous responsibility to deal with this but a tremendous interest in doing so. Because a nuclear?free Korean Peninsula is in the interest of everyone. It is not just the responsibility of the United States to make certain that the Korean Peninsula is nuclear?free.

Mr. Stearns: I think it's pretty clear to everyone how the administration plans to approach Iraq and North Korea, but what about the third member of the axis of evil? Mohamed ElBaradei said that it seems like Iran is going to cooperate with the IAEA on nuclear inspections. Is Iran now a threat that still keeps it in the league of Iraq and North Korea?

Dr. Rice: Well, the President identified a class of states, states that were closed, that were pursuing weapons of mass destruction, that supported terrorism around the world. And Iran, unfortunately, still makes the grade on all of those. We hope that the IAEA inspections that are perhaps going to take place in Iran will be fulsome. We hope that the Iranians will be cooperative. But we have to remember that in a society that is secretive, it is also possible to hide programs. And the IAEA cannot do it on its own. It has to really have full and complete cooperation. And we will see how the situation in Iran plays out.

On terrorism, we need Iran to do much more. In fact, what really needs to happen in Iran is that the elected officials in Iran ?? and they do have elected officials ?? need to act like elected officials and care about the concerns and wishes of their people rather than pursuing a foreign policy agenda that is the foreign policy agenda that Iran is pursuing.

Mr. Stearns: At a time when the Bush administration would like Nigeria and South Africa to keep Zimbabwe out of the Commonwealth, what sort of signal does it send that President Chirac gets an exemption to the EU travel ban, allowing President Mugabe to come to Paris and participate in this Franco?African summit?

Dr. Rice: We think it's a very bad thing that Zimbabwe was allowed to participate here. You know, it was the French decision to do that. It's their summit. We understand that. But the world needs to unite and send a strong message to Zimbabwe that the appalling behavior of the Mugabe government, not just in the way that the elections were handled but in everything leading up to the elections, is really not condoned or appropriate, and cannot be accepted in the modern world.

Africa itself, the continent, is trying to make strides in democracy and good governance. And indeed, the President has been encouraging those trends. For instance, through the Millennium Challenge Account, which will increase American development assistance by 50 percent over the next several years, to make possible support for countries that do have a positive agenda on human potential and development, a positive agenda on good governance, a positive agenda on open economic reform.

And Mugabe is the exact opposite of that. And so not only Europe and the United States, but also the African countries themselves, need to stand up and say that this is simply unacceptable in the 21st century.

Mr. Stearns: At the heart of Africa, at least geographically if not political geographically, in Congo, [rebel leader Jean-Pierre] Bemba has now been saying that he thinks that Kabila Joseph is arming rebels in Benin, and the South African?negotiated peace deal in Congo seems to ?? now we're not quite sure where it is. What can the Bush administration do to make sure that the tentative peace in Congo holds and that that conflict is resolved?

Dr. Rice: The President has been very involved in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's difficulties. He had a meeting not too long ago in New York, in which he brought together the Rwandan’s Kagame and President Kabila, to urge them, with President Mbeki there, to sign this peace accord. The peace accord was signed. And we work almost every day with the different parties to encourage them and to press them to carry out the terms of those agreements.

The Great Lakes region is one that really needs now to have this resolved. Because it, too, is getting in the way of development for countries that have too long been dealing with civil war, been dealing with foreign forces on their soil. And so we appeal frequently to all of the countries involved in the conflict, as well as the leadership of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to really focus now. They have a peace accord. They have a peace accord that we believe is workable. And they need to implement it.

Mr. Stearns: Finally, I would like to ask you one last Africa question. Director Tenet testified before the Congress that the new President, Mwai Kabaki, of Kenya, could be facing a tough time, not only in keeping his coalition together but in the extraordinary expectations that Kenyans have now that Daniel arap Moi is no longer there. What can the Bush administration do to make sure that what has been an electoral success in Kenya sticks?

Dr. Rice: We believe very strongly that it was an electoral success in Kenya. And indeed, the President has encouraged President Moi to be a part of a peaceful transfer of power. He was a part of a peaceful transfer of power. And we now are working with the new Kenyan Government. We have very good relations with Kenya on a variety of fronts. They are a steadfast partner in the war on terrorism. They are a steadfast partner on security matters. But we also have important and growing economic ties with Kenya.

We will do everything that we can to try and strengthen Kenya's resolve to carry this electoral success through to a governing success. But much is dependent, of course, on the Kenyans themselves. We believe that they will make it. This was a great success for East Africa. It was a great success for the Kenyan people. We want to see it continue.

Mr. Stearns: Ms. Rice, thanks very much for being with us.

Dr. Rice: Thank you.

(End of interview.)