CBS Interview with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (Excerpts)

September 12, 2005

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Related Country: 

  • Iran

. . .

QUESTION: As long as we're doing a cook's tour of that wonderful part of the world, let's look over the fence to the neighbor Iran, which is going to be significant on the UN's agenda this week. Do you see -- what do you see happening there? And it looks like the saber-rattling has already begun and people haven't even got to town yet.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me start with the Iranian nuclear issue. The world is united in one thought: The Iranians cannot have a nuclear weapon. Everybody is united in that. But then the question becomes: How do you make certain Iran does not have a nuclear weapon? And it's important not to let the Iranians rewrite this history. The reason that the EU-3 negotiations began was that Iran had engaged in suspicious activity that the IAEA cited -- activity, by the way, that was exposed by Iranian dissidents, so it wasn't as if the Iranians came forward and said, oh, by the way, this has been going on. It was discovered.

Rather than go the immediate course of referral to the Security Council, the EU-3 entered into these negotiations with the Iranians to see if they could get what they called objective guarantees, meaning that the Iranians would engage in no activities that the world could believe might lead to an Iranian nuclear weapon. Those negotiations included substantial incentives for Iran on the trade and political front.

The agreement was that the Iranians would suspend any activities associated with the fuel cycle. They have now broken that agreement. And it can't be the case that that's just okay. That's the wrong signal. And so the international community needs to come together and say that that kind of behavior is not acceptable and that Iran should return to the negotiations having suspended the activities that have caused this crisis.

We are completely supportive of what the European Union has been trying to do and the diplomatic route. But the overall problem here is that you have a state in Iran that is increasingly out of step with the development of that new Middle East that we were talking about. You have an Iran where the political trends inside Iran have gone backwards, not forward. People say, well, "compared to" and then name a country, Iran is more open. But this is a question of trends and Iran's trends are in the wrong direction, not the right direction.

Secondly, Iran remains the principal supporter, along with Syria, but Iran even more so, of terrorist activity, including Hezbollah, and the Palestinian rejectionists at a time when Mahmoud Abbas is trying to build a Palestinian apparatus that is free of terror. And so whether it's on the nuclear front or the human rights front or the terrorism front, Iran is a problem for the international system and it is a problem for the Middle East.

That's the point that the United States is making. This is not because we hold grudges against Iran, though we of course remember precisely what Iran did to American diplomats, something that is fairly unparalleled in modern times. So our job is to continue to work the nuclear issue but to hope that people will not lose sight of this broader question. And you now have a new government in Iran. We would hope that it's going to try to take a new, different course, although there is no evidence that it would.

QUESTION: Do you expect the President to repeat this week that all options are on the table for dealing with Iran?

SECRETARY RICE: If the President is asked, I'm sure he'll repeat it. You know, it's --

QUESTION: Is that still -- that's still our view?

SECRETARY RICE: The President of the United States is never going to take an option off the table. You wouldn't want him to. The world shouldn't want him to. We've said that we believe that the way to solve the Iran problem is through diplomacy, that we think that there is a diplomatic track here and that, as I said in Europe, the question of the use of force isn't on the agenda at this time but nobody is ever going to remove options from the President. But we are pursuing a diplomatic course and we're pursuing it aggressively and I fully believe that if the international community comes together and sends the right signals, we'll actually -- we'll succeed diplomatically.

QUESTION: What is the contacts between us and Iran? Obviously, we don't have relations with them, but I mean, do you talk to anybody indirectly or --

SECRETARY RICE: No, no. We have a channel that we use to effectively pass messages in New York, which we have used from time to time. And the Swiss represent our interests and are usually the channel that we use diplomatically.

. . .

QUESTION: The Iranian Foreign Minister was pretty strong yesterday in talking about efforts to bring this question in the Security Council. Where do you see this going? This seems to be an escalating problem. And you talked about negotiation, but what specifically are we going to do to try to get this thing resolved, or is this getting out of hand?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the EU-3 was involved in negotiations with the Iranians based on an agreement that they made in Paris. It's that agreement that the Iranians have broken. And so the first question is to the EU-3 and others: What are you going to do about an agreement that the Iranians broke with you? Not an agreement, by the way, that the Iranians broke with us. An agreement that the Iranians broke with the EU-3.

I can assure you that I don't think that the best way to deal with that is to simply say to the Iranians, well, okay then, that's all right, we'll just kind of assume -- we'll pretend that didn't happen and then we'll move forward. Because that says to the Iranians that there is no consequence whatsoever for having broken out of this agreement, which, as I said, they got into for having suspicious activities to begin with. It wasn't as if they just one day decided to have an agreement. It was because they were facing IAEA referral the last time.

I think what we're trying to do is to get the world to rally around a position that says to the Iranians we want to resolve this diplomatically, we can resolve this diplomatically, but it needs to be done in the context of Iran being back inside the agreement that they signed, not outside the agreement that they signed. And that shouldn't be, frankly, a stain on or an insult to Iranian national pride because they're the ones that signed on to the Paris agreement, so going back to the Paris agreement should not be somehow considered something that is humiliating for the Iranian Government. It's what governments do. They negotiate.

So we're talking with our counterparts and we'll see. I think that at some point this has got to end up with a resolution. But I think there's still some room to work toward an agreement with the European-3, but not under circumstances where the Iranians have just walked away from the negotiations. I think that's really the issue here.

All right, thank you very much.

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