Press Conference with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (Excerpts)

March 30, 2006

SECRETARY RICE: Good evening. The overnight flight to Europe is now underway. Sorry, I had to be on a panel for the American Society of International Law.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY RICE: Actually, it was. It was very interesting. Sandra Day O'Connor was on it and this wonderful woman, Judge Higgins, from Great Britain, so it was fun.

I am, as you know, off to Europe, and so are you, and I just wanted to talk a little bit about the meetings in Berlin, in particular the meetings of the P-5 + 1. The first point I would make is that we've increasingly found this a useful forum in which to address one of the most important issues in the international system at this time, and that is the Iranian nuclear program and the behavior of Iran. And in this session we'll have a chance to look ahead. We have the presidential statement. The presidential statement is an international voice to the Iranians that they need to suspend their activities, return to negotiations and that they continue to be isolated by what is the unanimous view of the Security Council that they must take the steps that the IAEA has demanded.

Given that we don't now have to negotiate text, we will really have an opportunity to sit and look ahead to what next steps we might wish to take. We'll also have a chance to look ahead and talk not just about the nuclear program but about the broader concerns about Iran on terrorism, given the issues in Syria and Lebanon, on which, by the way, this same group has associated in Security Council resolutions. We can talk about the situation with Iran in the Palestinian territories and of course we can talk about the nature of the Iranian regime and the kinds of comments that are coming out of Iran that show that this regime is really -- is a troublesome regime for peace and stability in the Middle East.

And so I think this conversation will be broader, but the best thing is that we won't be going in to negotiate text, as we did on January 30th. We'll really be looking ahead.

I also will have an opportunity to meet with Chancellor Merkel and with President Chirac. I'm looking forward to those discussions also on broad issues, but again not just concerning the Iranian nuclear issue but Iran more broadly and the challenge that Iran poses, and I suspect that we'll also have a chance to talk about other issues like Syria and Lebanon, the Middle East peace process and Iraq.

So it's another round of consultation. It's my own view that these frequent consultations are really producing fruit because we have been able to hold this coalition together. We have the same strategy, we have the same goal, but obviously we've had tactical differences and this gives us a chance to stay together as we move forward.

QUESTION: Will you have an opportunity to talk to Foreign Minister Lavrov about other issues, bilateral issues, especially given today's comments by President Putin that you are actually now impeding their accession to WTO and basically that the relationship is not on a very good track?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I haven't seen President Putin's comments but we've been very clear that we'd like to see Russia a member of the WTO. But the agreement has to conform to WTO rules and it has to be something that will pass congressional scrutiny that it indeed conforms to international rules. We have problems on poultry. We have problems on financial services. I don't think this is an issue of impeding. I think this is an issue of negotiation and trying to get to an outcome that I think both presidents would like to have, which is Russian accession to the WTO. But it has to be on the basis of openness and opening of the Russian economy.

Yes, I will talk -- I will -- I think we'll have a little time probably to talk about other issues.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)


QUESTION: Iraq, for example?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm awaiting the Russian Government's response so I don't know if it will be at this meeting or not.

But let me just say one other thing about the P-5 + 1. I really want to emphasize that the text work is done, so this is not to go and write another statement. We've just finished that. This is really to have an open discussion about how we move forward.

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QUESTION: What would you like the next steps to be on Iran? And Russia has made very clear that they would not be on board for sanctions or any sort of invasion. What are you looking at in this particular meeting, if you could just paint a scenario of what the possible options might be?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, of course, a lot depends on what the Iranians do in response to the presidential statement and their increasing isolation. But once you're in the Security Council, and we are indeed in the Security Council, you have a number of options at your disposal and it's not just sanctions of the kind that people have always thought about. I think that we'll look at politically how can strong messages be sent to the Iranian regime that it's the regime that's isolated, not the Iranian people.

We'll undoubtedly look at questions of what -- how Iran can be better convinced to return to the IAEA safeguards. Given that they claim they want a civil nuclear program, I've actually never understood why with a civil nuclear program you have to have certain kinds of capabilities. So I think we have to look at how those capabilities are being supported and what we might do about the support to those capabilities.

But this isn't the time to try and come to a conclusion about what the next step is. It's an opening discussion about those next steps and I think we'll have a better idea of what everybody is prepared to do. But a lot is going to depend on the Iranian reaction and I would not at this point carve in stone anybody's decisions about what next steps might be.

QUESTION: Russia has been quite concerned that any next steps or sanctions, if it ever got to that point, could push Iran to kick out inspectors and essentially leave the whole IAEA framework completely. How much did that concern play a role in getting to this statement and how realistic do you think that scenario is? I mean, could Iran get pushed to the point where essentially you're in a worse position because there's no eyes and ears there than you are now?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't know that it's necessarily worse to have Iran finally clarify for people that they don't intend to live under the international regime because what they're doing currently is a kind of salami tactic. First it was just going to be conversion. Then it was just going to be a small-scale R&D. Then it was going to be about centrifuge production. So I don't see Iran particularly constrained by the fact that the IAEA continues to operate in Iran right now. So if Iran makes that threat and carries through on it, then I think we'll have a better and clearer view of what Iran's intentions really are. And so that's not a cost-free move by the Iranians given that they continue to claim that they want peaceful nuclear uses.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, when you speak about broadening out the discussion to take into account the whole list of Iranian concerns, are you looking for the Security Council or the broader international community to deal with the long list of concerns of Iran such as not only terrorism but in recent months you've announced a new policy towards Iran to increase your work on democracy, to try and change at least the nature of the regime or the behavior of the regime. You've set up a new office really dealing with Iran in a much deeper and more comprehensive way. Is this what you're looking for from the P-5 + 1 or the international community? You've called Iran one of the greatest foreign policy challenges of this time.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's clearly a great foreign policy challenge. And no, I'm not suggesting that this is something the Security Council needs to take up, but obviously it is something that puts the Iranian nuclear program into context for dealing with it in the Security Council. I suspect that this is going to continue to be about the nuclear program of Iran in the Security Council. But when you are looking at a state that has threatened or says that it will indeed wipe another member of the UN off the map, when you are looking at a state that supports terrorists in the Middle East, that supports Hezbollah in Lebanon despite the UN Security Council resolutions that declare that there shouldn't be the foreign interference of Syria in Lebanon, you have to put in context that state with the technology to build a nuclear weapon. And so I think it's more of an issue of the context in which we understand Iran's nuclear ambitions.

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QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the Russians and the Chinese seemed intent on making sure that the presidential statement did not have in it any sort of hook that could be used later to say the Security Council must do something if Iran doesn't act and they seem to have succeeded at that. Do you believe that if you agree on some further step that the statement gives the United States and its allies the authority to say the Security Council must move forward in any particular way?

SECRETARY RICE: We were not trying to hide a Chapter 7 resolution in a presidential statement. You know, when we get to the status -- to the state of affairs that we want to seek a resolution, we'll seek a resolution. This presidential statement had one purpose and one purpose only: It was to, in effect, restate what had been in the IAEA Board of Governors resolution and to put the weight of the Security Council behind that resolution and to give the IAEA the weight of the Security Council.

You know, we all had views of how this ought to turn out. The Russians also didn't want the simultaneous reporting to the Security Council and the IAEA. There is simultaneous reporting to the Security Council and the IAEA. So we came to a common position by working out our differences and everybody, I think, is now comfortable that this resolution does what it needs to do. But I want to very clear. When you are taking a first step, the unity of the P-5 in particular, but the unity of the Security Council, is extremely important and we were willing to deal with the Russians on their concern and clearly they were willing to deal with us on our concern.

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