Joint Press Briefing with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy

July 5, 2005

SECRETARY RICE: Good afternoon. I'm very pleased to welcome Foreign Minister Douste-Blazy to the United States and to the State Department. We have already had an opportunity to meet earlier in London during our meeting there for the G-8 ministerial and we saw each other also in Belgium, and so we are fortunately spending a good deal of time together because the United States and France have a very big and historic agenda ahead of us.

We had an opportunity today to review a number of the issues on that agenda. Of course, we talked about Lebanon and the need for there to be continued progress toward the complete fulfillment of Resolution 1559.

We covered a number of other issues: the Middle East peace process; issues concerning Europe and the upcoming discussions that we will continue to have about the Balkans, in particular Kosovo; counterterrorism cooperation; and a number of other issues as well. So it was a very useful exchange and I want to thank you very much, Philippe, for coming and I look forward to seeing you again soon.

FOREIGN MINISTER DOUSTE-BLAZY: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much, Condi, for your words of welcome. I must say that I'm very pleased to have come to the United States. And as we've said, we have worked a great deal and, although I have known you for you a very short time, I have the impression that I now know you very well because, indeed, we have worked together in London, Brussels, and now here. And I have come to the United States to tell you that with the United States we are not dealing with just any other counterpart; we are dealing with friends, allies and partners. And we cannot see the United States as anything else, anything other than being friends. And to friends you speak frankly and you don't necessarily always agree, but you always speak as friends.

And we have worked a great deal. We have shown that the United States and France can work together on very concrete subjects, as you said: Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Palestine, as well as questions of nonproliferation; Iran, of course; and other major subjects such as Kosovo and the Balkans.

And beyond discussions that I've had with Condi Rice, I am also going to meet here in the U.S. with captains of American industry, editorialists. And this morning I also met representatives of the Jewish community, and this afternoon I shall be meeting with unions, and tomorrow I shall be going to New York and also to Chicago, where I shall award French decoration to veterans to show that France and the French do not forget everything that we owe the United States and Americans.

And in talking with Condi Rice, I realize that perhaps the ideal would be to associate the French touch and the American way of life.

SECRETARY RICE: Sounds very good to me. I should just mention that I also had a chance to thank Philippe for the help that France gave us in 1776 because without France, of course, yesterday's celebration might not have been possible. So thank you very much. (Laughter.)

FOREIGN MINISTER DOUSTE-BLAZY: And I never saw such a beautiful firework in my life.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the Syrians have had several recent clashes with insurgents, including yesterday with former bodyguards of Saddam Hussein. They say this refutes the U.S. criticism that they are not doing enough to stop terrorism or condoning terrorism crossing their border. Do you think that the Syrians have changed their operations at all? Have you changed your view at all? And do they deserve any credit?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I continue to hope that the Syrians are going to live up to their international obligations concerning Iraq, which means to do what they can on their border to safeguard that border. I, too, have been reading the reports of clashes between Syrian forces and Iraqi insurgents or Saddam Hussein's bodyguards. If that's the case, then that would be a good thing. But it's been the case in the past that Syria has done as little as possible. I hope that this time Syria will do as much as possible to deal with that border.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) We have understood that the Europeans are about to make a proposal to the Iranis, and would the U.S. be prepared to include a proposal which would -- to accept a proposal which would include a transfer of technology for civil nuclear energy? Would this be acceptable to the Americans?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, of course, we're in very close contact with our European counterparts as they continue these negotiations and we do urge the Iranians, by the way, to continue these discussions. It is still Iran's best opportunity to demonstrate that it is prepared to live up to its international obligations.

It is still our view that this must proceed from the terms of the Paris agreement and that that means that there must be objective guarantees that Iran is not surreptitiously gaining the technology or technological know-how that might lead to the development of a nuclear weapon. And that means enrichment, reprocessing, and the entire -- all of the activities associated with the fuel cycle.

And we have been very clear that we do not see the need for civilian nuclear power in Iran, but for instance, we have taken note of the way that Russia has safeguarded or intends to safeguard the Bushehr nuclear reactor, making certain that there is assured fuel supply but a take-back provision to diminish proliferation risks.

So we will continue to consult with our European colleagues as they move forward.

FOREIGN MINISTER DOUSTE-BLAZY: Yes, as you're mentioning Europe, I'd like to say a few words. I'd like to say that France was the first to start the negotiations and discussions with Iran on the possibility of having civil nuclear energy. And, obviously, we have taken note with the European Union of the election of President Ahmadinejad and we must say that we, as others, regret that not all candidates were able to run in the election. But that's where we are now and we must now continue our diplomatic relations with Iran so as to make sure that they abide by the spirit, as Dr. Rice has said, of the Paris agreement of the 4th of November 2004 and that they suspend the reprocessing of hazardous nuclear material.

In Kaliningrad, a few days ago, the Russian President along with President Chirac and Chancellor Schroeder, also unequivocally said that he was in favor of the suspension of proliferation. And now, I think what we need to do is to base ourselves on finding a package which is credible for the Iranis so as to make sure that they have -- to provide them with things like technical agreement -- provide them meteorology equipment or seismology equipment or other, and to make sure, also, that we discuss with them the security of their country.

And for this, we shall need the United States and we shall talk with them before proposing the package -- making the proposal. But I must say that our ultimate -- objective is to ensure that there is a suspension of the enrichment and reprocessing of hazardous nuclear material.

MR. MCCORMACK: Andrea Koppel, CNN.

SECRETARY RICE: She doesn't have a question.

QUESTION: I don't have a question right now. Sorry. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Mr. Foreign Minister -- I apologize for my voice -- this is not the heaviest foreign policy question, but there seems to be somewhat of a diplomatic dispute over some comments by your President regarding food in Britain. President Chirac is quoted as saying that you can't trust people who have such bad food, adding that only Finland has worse food. Has the President sought to clarify these remarks at all or perhaps apologize for them? Any comment on that?

FOREIGN MINISTER DOUSTE-BLAZY: Well, frankly I don't think that President Chirac could have actually said anything like this. And I also know that President Chirac is actually absolutely focused on one thing now, which is getting the Olympics for Paris. And I know this is something that's really very much concentrated on. And-- but there-- this, indeed, is a form of competition. But we're used to competition and competition is healthy. And I don't know what President Chirac will be served to eat in Singapore, but what I know is that he will do his utmost to get the Olympics in Paris.

SECRETARY RICE: And by the way, New York has a bid as well. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Philippe (inaudible) Le Figaro. Just one thing to come back to the Iran issue. Madame Secretary, do you agree with the word "suspension" that the French Minister just used?

Is that good enough for the United States?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the Paris agreement is initially about suspension, but ultimately the world has to be assured that Iran cannot have this capability. And that will ultimately have to be objective guarantees and we believe that means cessation. But as a starting point, and as the negotiations are now underway, the first and most important step had been to make certain that the suspension is maintained; but no, we believe that it has to be cessation.

But the key here is to have negotiations that are serious. And we believe that the EU negotiations with Iran are serious negotiations. The question here -- let's remember what it is we are trying to do, and what we're trying to do is to make certain that Iran does not have the technology or technological know-how that could be turned from civilian use to the making of a nuclear weapon.

FOREIGN MINISTER DOUSTE-BLAZY: I think while we're here, it's absolutely basic to remember that the word of the Paris agreement is indeed suspension. But having spoken with them and having made a proposal, I think it's absolutely necessary to state that the Europeans will never accept a resumption of the Iranian military nuclear activities.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much.