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Rice Plans Regular Regional Briefings with New Pentagon Chief

22 December 2006

United States looks forward to strengthening Middle East democracy in 2007, Rice says

Washington -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she plans a series of in-depth briefings with the new secretary of defense, beginning in January 2007, to enhance diplomatic and military collaboration in Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa and elsewhere.

The United States in 2007 also looks forward to working with responsible nations to strengthen democratic forces throughout the Middle East, Rice said. This includes building a stable Iraq and addressing the Iranian nuclear threat, as well as strengthening democracy in Lebanon and working toward a democratic Palestine, Rice said in an interview December 21 with the Associated Press.

Former CIA Director Robert Gates was sworn in as the new secretary of defense December 18, succeeding Donald Rumsfeld, who served nearly six years as the civilian chief of the Pentagon. Within hours of assuming office, Gates began a three-day visit to Iraq, where more than 130,000 U.S. troops are deployed, and planned to brief President Bush on his visit shortly after returning.

Starting in the first week of January, Rice said, she and Gates are “going to arrange a series of quite long and extensive joint briefings with our key advisers on issues where we overlap.  We’ll have an extensive hearing on Afghanistan, have an extensive one on some of the Africa issues – Sudan, Somalia. … We plan to do this on a fairly regular basis, but we are going to try to do some of the most important and consequential areas right up front.”

Rice said the State Department and Pentagon already do a good job coordinating their efforts around the world. The new series of regional briefings will enhance this cooperation in a world where military and diplomatic efforts are increasingly part of a “continuum,” Rice said. “And so we’ve talked about ways to enhance that cooperation,” she said.

A transcript of Rice’s interview is available on the State Department Web site.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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