Press Conference with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the Iranian Elections (Excerpts)

June 16, 2005

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

. . .

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the White House today issued a statement very critical of Iran's election, particularly of the unelected few who have dominated power. Does the United States seek the removal of those unelected or support the removal of those unelected few, or are you willing to apply the standard of generational change that you talk about with other countries?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the sad thing about Iran is it's moving backwards, not forward. There are some places where the trend line is moving forward and some places where the trend line is moving in the wrong direction. I think everyone would say that the Iranian system, political system was more open a few years ago than it is now. If you look at the role of the Majlis a few years ago, it was actually a central point for reform. Many of those deputies were then not allowed to run or were somehow kept from running in the next elections. If you looked at the elections that took place before, there was more openness in those elections. So some of this is about trend line, and the Iranians are moving in the wrong direction.

Now, that said, when you have a system in which somebody arbitrarily sits and hand-picks who can run and who cannot run, it's a little hard to see that producing an outcome that is going to lead to improvement in the situation.

We've always said that this is also an issue of the behavior of the Iranian Government; and so we will be watching, along with everybody else, after the Iranian elections take place to see whether or not the Iranians are somehow ready to commit to a course that puts them more in step with what is going on in the region. That means to have their political system move toward greater openness, first of all; secondly, that they are going to live up to their obligations not to try and seek a nuclear weapon under cover of a civilian nuclear power, and that is that they'll take the deal that the E-3 is giving them; third, that they are prepared to be transparent and good neighbors for the new democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq; and fourth, that they are going to get out of the business of supporting terrorist and rejectionist groups, which go right at the heart of what most of the Middle East is now trying to achieve: a peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. And if the Iranians are prepared to start on that course, then that's -- we'd be in a different set of circumstances than we are now.


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QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Secretary. I'm just going to follow up on Iran, on the statement that was issued from the White House today. And they said thousands of people, including the reformers and women were barred from taking part in the election. Do you think that will be a fact that will undermine outcome of the result, considering that maybe the frontrunner Rafsanjani will be elected and he already stated that he'd want to open a new page with Washington?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Well, the process certainly matters. And when you do have thousands of people and -- well, women as a class and then thousands of people arbitrarily, as far as I can tell, told that they cannot run, it calls into question -- or I can't see how one considers that a "legitimate election."

My point is that whatever happens there, we've long said to the Iranians that we have very big concerns about their behavior. And I think everybody understands what that means. And again, I would just focus on the trend line here, which is simply in the wrong direction.

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QUESTION: I wanted to ask how seriously or what degree of opposition the U.S. really has towards the plans that India and Pakistan have evidently to move forward on this pipeline from Iran and what consequences the U.S. is threatening might flow from that if they do go ahead with it?

SECRETARY RICE: We've communicated our concerns to both Pakistan and India about this, but we have very positive relations with Pakistan and India. The really amazing thing is that we have managed to have very positive relations with India that includes an increasing defense cooperation relationship and very positive relationships with Pakistan that includes defense cooperation. And so I think it demonstrates that we are de-linking the India-Pakistan and I think it shows that, in a sense, they are, too, because we're very -- find quite remarkable and very encouraging the move of Pakistan and India toward a greater rapprochement between them and we want to be supportive of those trends.

One thing that is of concern to the countries in that region and we're going to have to have continuing discussions about is the energy situation because these are growing economies (inaudible) the Indian community which has to find energy supply and that's why we have an energy dialogue with the Indians, so that we can help to talk about different forms of energy supply because we fully understand that they need to find it. But we've made our concerns known about this specific circumstance.

QUESTION: It is fair to say that you're not likely to move towards sanctions then if they were to go down that path?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think the -- we are sharing our concerns in a constructive way with them and not in a negative way. All right. I guess I have to go. Thank you very much.