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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

21 June 2005

Rice Calls for a New International Partnership on Iraq

Secretary outlines her expectations for Brussels conference

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says an international conference on Iraq taking place in Brussels, Belgium, June 22 offers an opportunity to build a new international partnership for Iraq.

"[T]he transfer of sovereignty has taken place, the Iraqis have impressed everybody with the elections and then the formation of a government and now they're in the constitutional writing phase.  And so it's an apt time for the international community to join forces to support what the Iraqis are now going to do," Rice said, briefing reporters en route from Saudi Arabia to Brussels June 21.

Rice said that the Brussels conference, which will be attended by more than 80 countries, will not be a gathering of donors pledging financial and economic assistance.

She said she hopes that the conference will help generate more diplomatic support for Iraq from countries in the Middle East, will discuss ways to bolster Iraq's security, and will convey the message from the international community to Iraq on the need for maximum inclusiveness in its political process.

The secretary said that Iran will be represented in Brussels, and she expressed the hope that Iran will offer ideas about how to help the security situation in Iraq, its neighbor to the west.

Answering reporters' questions about reforms in Saudi Arabia, Rice said that the national dialogue taking place in the kingdom is addressing fundamental attitudes among the population.  She said that women's rights have been expanded.

"Reform is a push-and-pull process between the population and leadership and external forces.  And I think you're seeing all of that play out," she said. She said the role of the United States is to "expand the realm of what people think is possible.  And then you have to trust them to take that expanded set of possibilities and act on them."

Commenting about Lebanon and Syria, Rice said that Syria needs to stop acting in a destabilizing way in Lebanon.

For additional information about the secretary’s travels, see Secretary Rice’s Trip to the Middle East and Europe.

Following is the transcript of Rice's briefing en route to Brussels:

(begin transcript)

Office of the Spokesman
June 21, 2005


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
En Route to Brussels, Belgium

June 21, 2005

SECRETARY RICE:  Good morning.  I'm on my way to Brussels as you know and then on to London.  The Brussels Conference, which will involve some 80 nations and some high percentage of that, or the last that I heard, was 66 to 67 foreign ministers, so representations at a very high level are -- don't take those numbers literally, somebody will get you the actual numbers.

But the conference is an opportunity to build really a kind of new international partnership for Iraq.  I think that the war is now behind us, the transfer of sovereignty has taken place, the Iraqis have impressed everybody with the elections and then the formation of a government and now they're in the constitutional writing phase.  And so it's an apt time for the international community to join forces to support what the Iraqis are now going to do.

The agenda will give us an opportunity to hear from the new Iraqi Government on their priorities and their aspirations on the security front, on the political front and on the economic front.  I expect that they will have some quite concrete presentations about how they expect to move forward over these next several months as they get ready for elections at the end of the year.  That will in turn allow the international community to make its responses to the Iraqi agenda, rather than the international community just deciding, oh, we will be willing to support this or be willing to support that.  It's awfully important that we get a sense of what the Iraqis feel they need so that the international community can be responsive to that agenda.

It is not a donor conference.  The donor conference is to take place sometime later, but it is an opportunity to match up the aspirations and the ambitions of the Iraqis with the capabilities of the international community to support that.

It'll also be an opportunity for the international community to talk with the Iraqis about the expectations of the international community, whether it is political inclusion, which is now moving along as they are putting together this commission in a way that will include Sunnis more fully; to some of the economic challenges that the Iraqis have ahead of them to make certain that they can get on course for, for instance, a program with the International Monetary Fund, World Bank funding and the like.

So the one way to think about it is that this new international partnership and a kind of conversation between the new Iraqi Government and the international community about a way forward.  We're very excited about it.  A lot of countries, obviously, have responded.  And I really do think it helps us to turn a new page with the Iraqis, who have now demonstrated that they see their future on this political course, on a new economic course.  And while it continues to be the case that there are a lot of people who are trying to destroy the fabric of this new Iraqi Government and its relationship to its people with the wanton violence that they are bringing, this is really a statement from the international community that we also see the Iraqi future as one that is on a political course and on a political course that can indeed be achieved.

QUESTION:  Good morning.  Can you talk -- you said that this is not a donor conference but I'm sure money will come up, at least in the context of debt relief.  Where does the plan to get some of the Middle Eastern countries -- Saudi Arabia in particular -- on board with forgiving Iraqi debt stand?  What is your hope for what you'll find out here?

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, I'm sure that we'll have those conversations, but I don't expect that there will be really an outcome on that in that regard.  Those discussions are going on.  The good thing for the Iraqis is that there is a kind of model out there in that, as you know, there is the Paris Club agreement on how to deal with the Iraqi debt, that is based very fundamentally on the IMF debt sustainability study that was done.  So there's a reliable guide and I would hope that Iraq's neighbors would follow suit.  But I don't know of any breakthrough that's expected at this particular meeting.  The donor conference could conceivably deal with something like that more directly.

QUESTION:  (Inaudible).

SECRETARY RICE:  We've had those discussions with the Saudis.  I didn't discuss it here.  I will discuss it with my Saudi counterpart when I see him in Brussels.

QUESTION:  Thanks, Madame Secretary.  You said 60, 70, perhaps, foreign ministers -- is Iran coming to the conference?  Is their foreign minister coming?  What do you expect them to do?  Do you have some particular expectation or hope on their part?

SECRETARY RICE:  I'll have to get you the full guest list.  I believe the Iranians are coming and I don't know at what level.  I can try and find out for you.

Sean, what levels are the Iranians coming?  At what levels are coming?

We'll have to check at what level they're coming.  The issue with Iran is that Iran is a neighbor of Iraq.  We want them to have good relations with the Iraqis.  And I would hope that they would have a similar message of inclusion of all Iraqi ethnic and religious groups.  I would hope that they would have ideas about how to help in the security situation rather than any sense that there are any neighbors that are contributing to the security problems there.  And I'm sure that the Iranians will have many other things to say, but you know, they're a neighbor and they have direct contacts with the Iraqis and you know, we have no problem with their being there.


QUESTION:  (Inaudible).

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, the conference idea came up in discussions between the President and the European leaders when he was at the U.S.-EU summit meetings a few months ago.  It was before there was a new Iraqi Government and so it was decided that we weren't going to make any decisions about whether such a conference would be helpful until there was a new Iraqi Government.  After there was a new Iraqi Government, there were discussions and the Iraqis thought it would indeed be very helpful.  But I want to emphasize that the Iraqis are co-chairs of this conference as well.  So this is the Iraqis with their international partners, not the international partners delivering something to the Iraqis.

QUESTION:  Can I go back to the Middle East and reforms and democracy?  You said yesterday no more excuses and the Saudi Foreign Minister was talking about time and on their own terms, which to me sounds like an excuse.  What's your sense of what you saw and what you heard over the past two or three days?  Do they get it?  Do they understand what the United States has in mind?  And how optimistic are you that something might happen in the next four or five years?

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, first of all, it is a reality that reforms go at their own pace.  I don't think that's an excuse, I mean, at different paces in different societies.  Because different societies start from different places, from different levels of development of civil society, from different attitudes in the population about reform; from different attitudes about something like women's rights.  I think that's just a fact.  So in fact, I didn't take it as an excuse but as a statement of Saudi realities.

I do think that there will and that there needs to be and that there will be reform in Saudi.  I actually think that the national dialogue that they're engaged in is pretty important because it does get to the fundamentals of underlying attitudes in the population about some of these reforms.

And I don't know how to predict when you're going to have reforms, but there are really several processes that are going on in the Middle East.  You have internal processes that are playing out, so you see in a place like Egypt where you have a really pretty vibrant civil society and there is a give and take between members of civil society as well as with the government.  One of the interesting things about the meeting yesterday with civil society was that you had different views around the table about how to use this particular moment that has been opened up by the changes in electoral politics.  So there is an internal process that's going on.

Then there is a regional context in which, since you're having changes in different places in the region, whether it's in Iraq or in the Palestinian territories or what's happening in Lebanon, that that's having an impact on this internal dialogue.  And that, of course, is being pushed ahead by things like satellite TV, where people see Lebanese voting or see Iraqis voting or where Iran, ironically, had Iraqis or Afghans voting for a freely elected president on their territory at the same time that their own elections are tremendously constrained by people having chosen who will run.  It's got a regional context.

Then you have a kind of global context as well, where the pressures for reform are coming from economic factors and factors of globalization.  I do think that the United States, as the strongest power in the international system, having thrown its weight behind reform rather than the status quo, is also one of these global factors.

So whenever you ask how fast is something going to go -- I don't mean to sound like I ought to be back at Stanford -- but you need to look at several levels of analysis and many different variables -- you can strike that from your story -- (laughter) -- in order to understand how all of this is going to come together to produce change in different places.

QUESTION:  Madame Secretary, can I just follow up on that?  The Saudi Foreign Minister seemed a bit, I wouldn't say dismissive, but he didn't seem to incorporate the message.  He said, "We're not going to listen to the United States.  It's our own people we're going to listen to.  And that's the criteria we are going to follow."  Do you envision a point, at some time that you're going to have to have more muscular language and possibly some action to drive the point home?

And the other question is, can you comment on the bombing in Lebanon today, please?

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, we've had pretty muscular language, I think.  (Laughter).  I mean, all of you are writing from the point of view of doing this in the region, this is muscular language on the part of the United States.  But I agree, they should listen to their own people.  That's what matters ultimately.

Reform is a push-and-pull process between the population and leadership and external forces.  And I think you're seeing all of that play out.  This is such a big historical moment with so many factors that I believe that the United States has to just keep on doing what it's doing, which is speaking up for these principles, speaking up clearly for these principles, trying to work to empower civil society around the region, and recognizing that this is hard, not easy; that you're  dealing with a region where there are deeply entrenched views and attitudes and that the more that we can just work as a positive force for getting the conversation changed, the agenda changed, I think we're going to have an impact.

And on the Lebanon situation --

QUESTION:  (Inaudible.).

SECRETARY RICE:  Yeah, well, let me just do Lebanon for a moment.  You know that we have been concerned about the potential for further assassinations of political figures in Lebanon, anti-Syrian political figures, the instability that continues to be a part of the Lebanese landscape, due to the fact that I think there is still uncertainty about Syrian activities in Lebanon.  Yes, their military forces, their visible forces are gone, but they clearly are still acting in Lebanon and are still a force that is not a stabilizing force there.  I think that the Syrians have got to look at what they're doing and they've got to stop whatever they're doing there that is causing destabilization of the environment there.  The Lebanese people have spoken.  They are going to try and form a government and they need to be able to do that free of the foreign influence that's held them down for 30 years.

QUESTION:  (Inaudible).

SECRETARY RICE:  This is, again, like what we have seen before.  There is still an atmosphere and a context of instability in Lebanon.  I do not know who was responsible for this and I don't want to say that I know who was responsible, because I don't.  But there is a context and an atmosphere of instability.  Syrian activities are part of that context and a part of that atmosphere and they need to knock it off.

QUESTION:  Are you worried about backlash to your democracy promotion?  Because Egyptians that I spoke to were particularly annoyed that you were basically telling them how to run their elections, telling them they had to have monitors, that they should lift their emergency law.

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, I don't know which Egyptians you spoke to, Barbara, but there were also some who were saying, "Thank goodness you said something about the emergency law and thank goodness that you want to have international observers."  So the good news is Egyptians, across the board, feel differently about these issues.  That says something about the conversation that's going on in Egypt.

Of course, the United States has to recognize that we have to do this in a way that does not appear to be the United States has all the answers and you should just follow the program that the United States is laying out here.  We're trying to be very careful not to have that be the case.  Rather, to speak out for the principles and the values to try to give support to those who want in their own domestic environments, to push these values and these processes.

It is one reason that in all of the speeches that I do, I talk about the fact that this process has been hard in the United States; that indeed the United States does not either have all the answers and certainly has not had all of the answers in the past; that the process takes time and that it has to be homegrown.

But we also have to be realistic.  Without what the President has said, I do not think that the conversation would have changed so dramatically in the Middle East as it has.  And that more than anything is the role of the United States.  It's to expand the realm of what people think is possible.  And then you have to trust them to take that, expanded set of possibilities and act on them.

But I don't have any other explanations for why we're talking about reform and talking about the changes that we are than that the United States has, in effect, changed its agenda and I think it's given open space to ideas that were not thought possible just a year ago.

QUESTION:  On the road again.  Madame Secretary, coming back to the Brussels conference, first, you haven't ruled out meeting with any Iranian envoy, have you?  Secretary Powell, as you know, had a dinner where he was seated next to the Foreign Minister at one of these conferences last year.

But more specifically, can you tell us a little bit --

SECRETARY RICE:  (Inaudible.)

QUESTION:  Well, you know, some of us who were there saw how he -- that they tried to avoid that and then the Egyptians seated him next to the Iranian Foreign Minister.  I wonder if you expect anything like that again?  Or want it?

But, believe it or not, I have a more specific question.  You, and I believe, Solana are chairing a panel on security.  I wonder if you could talk about that.  And also the panel on politics, to be chaired by, as I understand, Kofi Annan and the Egyptian Foreign Minister.  He mentioned it yesterday.  What can these sessions accomplish?  What would you like to see them accomplish?  Can they put pressure on the Government of Iraq to involve more Sunnis and speed up the constitution, that sort of thing?  Thanks.

SECRETARY RICE:  Sure.  On the political one, I think it's important to note that, of course, the United Nations will play an important role in the electoral side and also on the constitutional side, so I think Kofi Annan will have a lot to contribute in that regard.

And it is important that the Iraqis receive political support from the region and from Arab states, and the Egyptians have been, according to the Iraqis, quite forward-leaning.  They have an Ambassador there.  They have a mission there.  And one thing that we'd like to encourage or that the region would like to encourage -- I'm sorry, that the Iraqis would like to encourage, is more diplomatic representation from the region.  And the Egyptians are, in effect, an example of how important that is.

As to our security panel, obviously there are several elements to security.  One is to provide the appropriate training to the Iraqis and to hear their plan for further training and equipping of their security forces along the lines of -- it's already being done but anything else that they're thinking about.  It's also to talk to those who are neighbors to suggest very strongly that the neighbors need to be supportive of the Iraqis, and that means not allowing their territory to be used for the insurgents and doing everything that can be done to keep the terrorists from transiting.  And obviously, the Syrians are a big concern in this regard and the Iraqis themselves have said the Syrians are a big concern in this regard.

The third is that it is does help with the political side because, as we've been saying, insurgencies are defeated not just militarily but politically.  And I do think that the international community is saying to the Iraqis that they should be as inclusive as possible, particularly of the Sunni community, and they seem to be working in that direction.

It's also the case that the international community's standards about human rights and individual liberties and the sorts of things that will be important in the constitution, religious freedom, the Iraqis themselves have said that that's at the core of what they want to do, but it will be good to reinforce that with them through the international community.

QUESTION:  (Inaudible).

SECRETARY RICE:  I have no intention of doing so.  No.

QUESTION:  At the risk of beating a dead horse, I was with you in Lithuania when you met with the Belarusian opposition leaders.  Last week, the President met with a North Korean defector.  The activities of those individuals, they're probably against the laws of those countries, so why does the United States have this exception for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt?

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, there's a long history with the Muslim Brotherhood, including its regional role, but Glen, I hardly think the Egyptian Government is either the North Korean Government or the Belarusian Government.  This is a government with which we do have relations and where we have respectful relations of Egypt's laws.

I spoke about the emergency decrees.  I spoke about the problems with the judiciary.  But the opposition in Egypt is quite broad.  I met with a lot of those people.  But, you know, I'm going to respect the laws of Egypt.

QUESTION:  By the way, when the Egyptians seated Powell next to the Iranian Foreign Minister, they seated him across from the Syrian Foreign Minister.

Back to Saudi Arabia, a couple of questions.  One, do you think it's fair to say that the situation regarding women's rights in Saudi Arabia is analogous to the situation regarding the rights of blacks in apartheid era South Africa?  And I was interested that last night you said in your opening statement at the joint press avail that you will continue to hope for further progress on the rights of women.  And I'm just wondering, have we seen some -- I know we've seen the municipal elections.  Have we seen some progress in Saudi Arabia on women?

And then finally, you have very pointedly not taken a position on the question of women and not being allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.  And to so many people, that's a symbol of the lack of women's rights, and I'm just wondering why.

SECRETARY RICE:  On the further progress, I think there has been a little in women's education.  I think that, you know, you had women journalists there last night.  I actually thought, by the way, that was both interesting and important.  And it may reflect, in part, the fact that there was a woman Secretary of State there, and if that's the case, that's fine, from my point of view.  It's because -- you know, it's a good thing for the society to see.  It's not --

QUESTION:  (Inaudible).

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, good, good.  So there are women journalists there.  That's good.  (Inaudible).  So there has been some progress. I continue to think, Jonathan, that the issue is about political rights for women because if women have the ability to have a voice in the political system, then you can have an actual gauge at some point of what is custom, what is tradition, what is -- and I think these issues will be resolved in that way.

And so I've not wanted in any society, really, to go through and say, you know, women ought to be able to do this activity or that activity.  I just think, again, the United States -- it goes back to Barbara's point.  The United States has to be -- has to recognize that even after democratic processes have taken place, places are not going to look like the United States in terms of social mores or political, exactly how this all plays out on the social side.

And so I think it is important for us to recognize some boundaries.  But I am quite certain that when women are able to express their aspirations and their views in the political system, which is, after all, how human beings connect with their government to petition for certain outcomes, that we will see what is really custom and what really does matter to Saudi women.  So it's just a line I've not wanted to cross and I think it's important that we do have some boundaries about what it is we are trying to achieve.

QUESTION:  (Inaudible).

SECRETARY RICE:  Oh.  Every difficult situation is different and the sources are different for different forms of exclusion and different forms of discrimination.  So I don't want to try to draw a comparison.  I just do believe that we need to continue to draw attention to the fact that we do not think a democracy is a democracy if women are not fully included in it.  And, you know, that's what we'll do.

I had one other one.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  A few minutes ago, you said that because -- you said the President had spoken out in favor of democracy and rights and that had had an impact on the conversation in the region.  And you said, you know, without that, maybe some of the ideas wouldn't have come forward.

I think I can guess some of the things that you're referring to, but I'd like to hear from you the specifics that you think have come about because of what the President of the United States has been saying about reform.

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, obviously, the conversation about reform has been stirred by a number of -- and I said there were a number of global, a number of regional and a number of local factors that are all working here together.  But the President didn't just begin to speak out about democracy and reform in the Second Inaugural.  This goes back to at least the speeches at the American Enterprise Institute and the National Endowment on Democracy.  And I think you would see that it actually even goes even --

QUESTION:  (Inaudible).

SECRETARY RICE:  Right.  It even goes back to 2002.

Now, Arafat.  I think it was in 2002 also that the President said that the United States was going to wait for new Palestinian leadership.  I think that also had an impact on how the post-Arafat period unfolded.  So you have to go back and look at several issues and it's always a change.  You know, one event leads to another event, leads to another event.  So it's very difficult and I would have to let social scientists -- I don't like to try to do this on the fly.  You'd have to go back and see precisely what led to what.

But the atmosphere and the overall sense that this is a region that is now unlocking in terms of democratic reform, democratic conversations, that the international community is expecting now democracy and the freedom agenda to be a part of the agenda with this part of the world, where it was not the case before, I think is, in part, attributable to American policy.  And I wouldn't know what specific -- how to help you, Saul, on what specifically because what the United States, again, what the United States does is to, when it speaks clearly, is to create different conditions, a different dialogue, and to open up the realm of what is possible.  And people simply think that the possibilities are different than they were several years ago.

QUESTION:  Isn't there a dramatic difference, though, in emphasis and the amount of time, actual time you're spending, the President is spending, on these issues?  I mean, taking the cue from the Second Inaugural Address.  For example, in your conversations with these various leaders, would you say that you spend most of your time on these issues?

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, I don't know if it's most, but I spend a lot.  Yes.  And it's also important to think about the phasing here.  After September 11th and the period through the end of the transfer of sovereignty in Iraq, the country was essentially at war for a period of almost three years:  Afghanistan followed by Iraq.

The period subsequent to that and after -- and with the Second Inaugural can be thought of as the time in which you talk about what new foundations the world needs to build after these wars.  And whether it is the discourse about democracy and liberty or the discourse about the need to have extremism fought as an ideology, I think what you're -- what really we're trying to respond to is once you have seen new conditions created by a different kind of possibility in Iraq, by what happened in Afghanistan.  The Hariri assassination comes -- happens as -- not because of what we have done.  But again, 1559 creates different conditions or a different set of expectations in Lebanon.

You then have an obligation to start to define what the parameters of the new systems are going to look like, and that's where I think the democracy and liberty that come out of the Second Inaugural have a new kind of urgency to them.

QUESTION:  Thanks very much, Madame Secretary.  Get back to Brussels.  To what extent was this conference conceived as a disciplinary exercise on the new Iraqi Government to force it to look ahead, and to what extent is it a chance, bearing in mind that you've got nearly 80 countries, to present this government as behind the scenes that one sees on television of the insurgency and the terrorism, that there is a real government here and that it's kind of a warming-up exercise for donor activities?

SECRETARY RICE:  I would call it more of an agenda-setting opportunity so that the new Iraqi Government and the international community are operating from the same agenda.  And that requires discipline on both sides, by the way.  It requires the Iraqis to have a firm view of where they're going, plans for that on the economic front, on the security front, on the political front.  But it also requires the international community to be disciplined in what it is going to -- how it's going to respond.

Too often, it can be the case that the international community kind of responds with whatever it has that it can do, rather than tailoring that to what is actually needed in the circumstances.  And so this is an agenda-setting exercise but it is indeed a discipline for both the Iraqis and for the international community.

Thank you.

(end transcript)

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

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