Reuters Interview with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

January 26, 2006

Related Country: 

  • Iran
  • Russia
  • China

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MS. GIACOMO: It looks like the support for the Russian proposal on Iran is gaining more strength, including from Iran and the Chinese. How is this affecting your push to refer Iran to the Security Council (inaudible)?

SECRETARY RICE: It's interesting that the Iranians have just now become interested in the Russian proposal. I think that says something about the role of pressure in this process. I think it shows that the Iranians are feeling that -- feeling the heat, if you will, that they are likely to be referred to the international -- to the Security Council. And so they're trying to find all kinds of ways to keep that from happening. And by the way, when the Iranians say, oh, we don't care if we're referred to the Security Council, well, clearly they do care because they're now running all over the world trying to avoid that.

But the Iranians have done plenty to be referred now to the Security Council. It's the Iranians who walked out of the EU-3 negotiations. It's the Iranians who were clearly in noncompliance and still started breaking seals and threatening to restart their reprocessing and enrichment activities. So our view is that when this is in the Security Council, we'll have a much better context for dealing with it.

MS. GIACOMO: Are you determined, though, to do it now, to make sure that the February meeting actually makes that decision? Or could you see, in an effort to continue to keep China and Russia on -- you know, within the international consensus, do you see room for continued -- I mean, you've said the time for talking is over.

SECRETARY RICE: The time for talking outside the Security Council is over. We should have learned something from this. Back in the fall, those who wished to refer the Iranians to the Security Council tabled a resolution but didn't vote it in order to give Iran an opportunity to demonstrate that it was prepared to live up to the international community's demand that it do what it needs to do. It didn't work. In fact, it produced the opposite reaction, which is that the Iranians walked out of the talks, they started breaking seals, they started threatening to -- they ended the moratorium, started threatening to reprocess and enrich, they're getting the equipment ready. So we've been down that track. It's time to put this in the Security Council.

MS. GIACOMO: Can you say conclusively that the meeting in February will take that referral vote and that the issue will be before the Security Council?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it is our view that that should be the stand on February 2, and I see very strong evidence that we have a coalition of states that join us in that view.

MS. GIACOMO: Even though the Russians are seeing traction on their proposal, the Chinese have said today, look, you know --

SECRETARY RICE: I just want to repeat: Why is it that the Russians are suddenly seeing traction on their proposal? The Iranians could have shown traction on the proposal several months ago. The Russians went to the Iranians with this proposal quite some time ago, and the Iranians told them that it could only exist as a proposal if they also enriched on Iranian territory.

So the Iranians are doing nothing but trying to throw up chaff so that they're not referred to the Security Council, and people shouldn't let them get away with it.

MS. GIACOMO: What do you see as a timeline for sanctions on Iran? Are we talking days, weeks, months? Do you have a clear picture of when sanctions might be invoked?

SECRETARY RICE: We'll take this one step at a time. Obviously the key here is that the Security Council gives you a context with authority that doesn't exist in the IAEA Board of Governors. But it would be our hope that getting it to the Security Council begins a process of strengthening the IAEA's hand to get the answers to the kinds of questions that they have, to get the seals back on the Iranian equipment, that that would be the outcome. If it's not the outcome, then we can see what next steps are needed.

MS. GIACOMO: As you well know, there are a lot of people who are -- even people who want this issue before the Council are concerned that if it goes to the Security Council without confidence that Russia and China will not block what you want to do, be it a presidential statement or, you know, or something stronger down the road, that, you know, this causes a problem not just for proliferation regime and the nonproliferation regime but also the Security Council process.

So I guess my question is, what do you gain by taking it to the Security Council if you're not confident that Russia and China will be on board when you need them?

SECRETARY RICE: I can't make an assessment that Russia and China are not going to be on board when we need them because Russia and China both see this as a very serious issue. They've made that very clear. Now, they may believe that there is still the possibility of working this out in the IAEA Board of Governors. We will have that discussion. A substantial number of states, the particularly the EU-3, who are the ones, after all, that have tried to negotiate with the Iranians for almost two years, believe that the time has come to refer it to the Security Council.

I do believe that when we're in the Security Council states will take a good, hard look at what subsequent Iranian behavior there is and then recognize that the Security Council has to be able to act in order to prevent what we all want to prevent, which is access to technologies that could lead to a nuclear weapon for a state that has lost the confidence of the international system in its truthfulness.

MS. GIACOMO: I know this is a technical issue, but it's important to Russia, and that is their proposal to have the issue sent from the BOG to the Security Council not as a formal referral but just as an issue of interest. Is that something you can support?

SECRETARY RICE: I think the Security Council knows this is an issue of interest. The question is: When are we going to get to the Security Council so that you have the weight of the Security Council in a formal sense.

MS. GIACOMO: So a formal referral is very --

SECRETARY RICE: I think it's -- the time has come.

MS. GIACOMO: And this is a little broader question. Why hasn't the Bush Administration produced a comprehensive policy on Iran? There are analysts, experts, even Congress people, important Congress people, who say that, you know, you really haven't put together a big picture vision. And one of their criticisms is that there really isn't a coordinating, vigorous program of support for pro-democracy civil society groups.

Under Secretary Burns, in his speech at SAIS, you know, hinted -- well, more than hinted;he said that the United States was going to do more in this regard. Have you put together a plan for any kind of vigorous pro-democracy program for Iran, and how does Iran fit into your democracy vision?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, Iran is a state, probably the state in the region, in the Middle East, the area we've been talking about, which is most out of step with the region that we hope to see develop. It is the largest state sponsor of terrorism. It is a state that has now a President who says the most outrageous things about other states, like that Israel should be wiped off the map. It is a state that denies to its own citizens the kinds of freedoms that are being -- that the region is developing. Whatever the outcomes of elections, people have gone and freely voted for those who are going to govern them. They didn't have a Guardian Council sitting and telling them which thousand candidates could actually enter. So Iran is in the wrong direction. And Iran has a vision for the Middle East of a kind of theocratic, unelected few who dominate the politics and the lives of their people that is clearly out of step. In response to that -- and of course Iran is seeking the technologies that could lead to a nuclear weapon.

Now given that, the policy of the United States is, of course, to deal with the near-term threats that Iran poses; for instance, the nuclear issue, and we've talked at length about how we're dealing with that through a diplomatic coalition of states that are pursuing that. We are pursuing with others ways to make clear that Iran's support for terrorism at a time when the Iraqi people and the Lebanese people and the Palestinian people have been seeking a peaceful course is not to be accepted and has to be acknowledged. And yes, the President has made very clear that the Iranian people are no different than any other people; they deserve a right to a democratic future as well. And we do want to try and help through broadcasting, through the provision of information, through nongovernmental organization support for democracy elements in Iran. We want to be able to help and support.

Our quarrel is not with the Iranian people. Our quarrel is with the regime that oversees them and oppresses them. And one of the things that we will be very careful as we go forward is to try and make clear to the Iranian people that this is not aimed at them. I think that any measures that we want to take against Iran, we want to try to have them be measures that don't isolate the Iranian people. Iranian soccer players ought to be playing in the World Cup and coming to visit the rest of the world. Iranian university students ought to be going to universities abroad. Perhaps those Iranian musicians that apparently can't play Beethoven now in Tehran ought to be playing Beethoven outside.

So it is comprehensive. It recognizes Iran's -- the danger that Iran poses to the region. It recognizes that the Iranian people are not at fault for that regime. And I think you will see that we will reach out more and more to the Iranian people, both in hopes that they can have more control over their future but certainly so that they know that it is not our intention to isolate them.

MS. GIACOMO: Will there be any money or any new proposals in the budget for this?

SECRETARY RICE: We are continually reviewing what we can do to support democracy in Iran, just as in other places. There are some changed circumstances even with the election of Ahmadi-Nejad to the -- which changes the course and the tone of the Iranian regime. So we're constantly assessing and reassessing what more we would be able to do.

MS. GIACOMO: But you've made no decisions about that?

SECRETARY RICE: We have -- we are looking at some programs and at some time we'll be able to talk more about them.

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