Thursday, May 24, 2007

Secretary Rice on Lebanon with Greta Van Susteren of Fox News

Interview With Greta Van Susteren of Fox News                               
Secretary Condoleezza Rice                                                    
Simi Valley, California                                                       
May 23, 2007     
QUESTION: Lebanon -- is there any rule for us in Lebanon? The Palestinians are
now trying to leave the area, trying to find safety. Is there anything we can 
do to help?                                                                   
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we've been very supportive of the government of Fouad   
Siniora. It's the elected Government of Lebanon. It's a democratic government.
It's a government that is trying to do the right things to establish          
sovereignty and democracy for Lebanon. And so we have been supportive of their
efforts to deal with this very extreme terrorist group that is operating in   
these camps. We've helped with a number of other international actors to reform
and strengthen the Lebanese Armed Forces and hopefully, they will prevail. I  
think it's very important that the Lebanese Government be able to deal with the
QUESTION: When you say we're helping, what are we doing? I mean, as a practical
matter, how do we help? We just receive phone calls and say, "Yes, we're with 
you?" Or what do we actually do?                                              
SECRETARY RICE: Well, some of it is political support, because this is a      
government that is very much under fire from extremist forces, and also from  
some of their terrible neighbors, like Syria and Iran. Syria occupied Lebanon 
with its forces for 30 years. And thanks to work by the United States, France,
the Security Council, Syria was essentially expelled from Lebanon a couple of 
years ago and Lebanon now has sovereignty. So we've helped in that way.       
We've also helped economically. I went to a conference in Paris that raised   
over $7 billion for this Lebanese Government and the United States has given  
generously to Lebanon. We have a $770 million package for Lebanon in this     
latest supplemental. So we really are great supporters of the Lebanese people,
because the Lebanese Government is making the right choices for democracy.    
QUESTION: Is Syria behind this? Are they stirring up the current trouble? I   
mean, we have 100 percent level of confidence that they're the ones that are  
helping to fund this?                                                         
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we can't be certain who's behind it, but these are      
clearly parties that do not want to see the Lebanese Government succeed and   
that want to cause trouble in these very desperate Palestinian refugee camps, 
where people don't live very well, and where there is extremism. But whether  
there are foreign influences involved here, I can't say. But Syria has been a 
source of conflict and a source of trouble for Lebanon for decades.            

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

State Department Spokesman on Lebanon-May 21,2007

"This highlights the fact that the Security Council  resolutions that exist out there, especially 1559, which calls for the disarmament of armed militias, need to be carried forward".
Daily Press Briefing                                                          
Sean McCormack, Spokesman                                                     
Washington, DC                                                                
May 21, 2007        
QUESTION: Could you talk about how you view what's going on in the camps? Do you think there's any relation to what's going on with U.S. and international efforts to push through the tribunal?                                         
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. At this point, we don't see any linkage between the lashing out of this particular group, Fatah al-Islam, against the Lebanese people and the Lebanese armed forces, any link between that and efforts to move forward the international tribunal.                                           
I know that there's been -- I know that there's been some talk about that in the press, but I can't substantiate that for you. If there is any other information that develops over time, we'll update our assessment, but nothing at this point.                                                                
QUESTION: How do you view the violence in this camp going on right now? I mean, there have been some kind of analysts and officials on background that said that this is some of the Islamic extremists have moved from Iraq to Lebanon to take advantage of the vulnerability of the political situation in Lebanon to try and train more Islamic extremists.                                        
MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you. I can't verify that. This is a group that has al-Qaida affiliations. And just one interesting note for you: the leader of this group is actually somebody who was tried in absentia in Jordan for the murder of Laurence Foley. The other person that was indicated or convicted of  that was Zarqawi.                                                             
So this is a group of people that will use violence, use terror, in order to achieve whatever ends that they are hoping to achieve. And they have managed to embed themselves in this Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, essentially using it as a base of operations. Now, as I understand it, the current violence in Lebanon first started when there was a bank robbery attempt -- and I can't tell you whether or not it was successful -- by members of this organization.      
Rightfully so, the Lebanese security forces reacted to that, and that was the beginning of this -- these battles between the Lebanese military and this group of violent extremists. And what you're seeing is ongoing battles right now.                                                                      
But clearly, the Lebanese security forces, the Lebanese armed forces, are operating well within the established norms and within the laws of Lebanon, seeking to reestablish security for the Lebanese people.                                                                       
QUESTION: Sean, has there been any phone calls of note from this building to any Lebanese officials?                                                       
MR. MCCORMACK: No, not that I'm aware of, no.                                 
QUESTION: Okay.                                                               
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Kirit.                                                   
QUESTION: Some have speculated there may be a Syrian hand in this. Do you see that at all?                                                                  
MR. MCCORMACK: Right, I know; I've seen those reports. I can't verify that for you. Again, as I said with Elise, nothing I can -- nothing that I have substantiates that at this point. We'll see as information develops, but this is a dangerous, violent group of people that unfortunately, for some of the innocent civilians, need to be dealt with, with use of force. Lebanese armed forces are reacting admirably. I know it's a difficult situation anytime you have these terrorist, violent extremist elements embedded in civilian populations wherever they may be. But the Lebanese armed forces are doing an admirable job in working on behalf of the Lebanese Government and the Lebanese people to try to bring law and order back to this area of Lebanon. And it's well within their rights to do so.                                            
And the other thing it highlights is the fact that the Security Council resolutions that exist out there, especially 1559, which calls for the disarmament of armed militias, need to be carried forward. This is just one example of why that is so important. You have these small groups and sometimes not-so-small groups that are able, of their own volition, on their own timetable, to create an unstable situation in the country; in this case, in Lebanon.                                                                      
And unfortunately, when this happens, sometimes innocent civilians lose their 
lives and we mourn the loss of innocent civilian life, but it's important that
these groups be dealt with.                                                   
QUESTION: How concerned are you about the humanitarian situation in the camps 
right now?                                                                    
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there's a lot of ongoing fighting right now, so we can't 
-- we don't obviously have a presence there. I know that the UN does have a   
presence there and they will go in and make an assessment of the humanitarian 
situation and in any of these cases, we're always concerned about innocent    
civilians. I know that the Red Cross was able to get in there and remove some 
wounded during a break in the fighting. And that's important that the innocents
in all of this are able to be cared for and that they continue to have their  
needs provided for.                                                           
So it's a hard situation, but let's make it clear that these are -- these     
people in this group are not petty criminals. These are hardened, violent     
extremists that will use the most despicable means of violence in order to    
achieve their ends. And I would just point out that the representative of the 
PLO in Lebanon also denounced this particular group and actually called upon  
the innocent Palestinians in this refugee camp to disassociate themselves from
this group; in essence, try to get them out of that camp because they         
understand how destructive these kinds of violent extremist groups are to the 
fabric of society.                                                            

President George W. Bush said on Monday that extremists trying to topple Lebanon's government "need to be reined in."

WASHINGTON, May 21 (Reuters) - President George W. Bush said on Monday that extremists trying to topple Lebanon's government "need to be reined in."

As battles raged for a second day between the Lebanese army and al-Qaeda inspired militants, Bush told Reuters in an interview aboard Air Force One that he had been briefed on the situation by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

"Extremists that are trying to topple that young democracy need to be reined in. Certainly we abhor the violence where innocents die. And it's a sad state of affairs when you've got this young democracy in Lebanon being pressured by outside forces," Bush said.

Bush, deeply distrustful of Syria's role in Lebanon, stopped short of accusing Damascus of being involved in the conflict. Syria has denied accusations that it had links to the Fatah al-Islam group battling the Lebanese army.

"I don't know about this particular incident. I'll be guarded on making accusations until I get better information, but I will tell you there's no doubt that Syria was deeply involved in Lebanon. There's no question they're still involved in Lebanon," he said.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Secretary Rice on Lebanon - Interview with Hisham Melhem-Al Arabiya

SECRETARY RICE: When it comes to Lebanon, I would say very directly to everyone that Lebanese democracy, Lebanese sovereignty is critical to the United States. We consider it one of the most important interests that we hold. The tribunal needs to take place. It needs to take place despite the deadlock that is taking place in Lebanon because the perpetrators of the assassination of Rafik Hariri need to be brought to justice. And the Siniora government, the democratically elected government of Lebanon needs to be supportive -- supported and Lebanon and Lebanese can count on the United States to do that.

QUESTION: So there shouldn't be any concerns in Lebanon, that there is going to be some sort of a --


QUESTION: -- an agreement with Syria or that -- a lessening of the American support for the Tribunal even under Chapter 7?

SECRETARY RICE: Absolutely. If we have to do that, then that's what we will do because it's extremely important that this tribunal take place so that Lebanon can turn to normal life.


Interview With Hisham Melhem of Al Arabiya

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
May 7, 2007

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you for this opportunity. Let's start with the headline. How do you read the Sarkozy election in Paris and do you anticipate that this will help your efforts in Iraq in Lebanon with -- vis-à-vis the tribunal and the war on terror?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we very much look forward to working with soon-to-be-President Sarkozy. We've had very good relations with the government of President Chirac. We've had our differences. But we work particularly well, for instance, on Lebanon and on the Middle East and I would expect that to continue, maybe to intensify because there's a lot of work to do in the Middle East and it's good to have a valuable partner like Paris, a partner that shares our values and we look very much forward to working with them.

QUESTION: Okay. Vice President Cheney is leaving to the Middle East and he will be meeting with the crucial leaders, crucial to your efforts in Iraq in particular. Is this only a follow-up to Sharm el-Sheikh or do you want those key leaders to do more in Iraq?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we had planned for some time now for the Vice President to go. And it's a very good time after Sharm because really now, the neighbors need to focus on what they can do to help this Iraqi -- young Iraqi democracy to succeed. Prime Minister Maliki, I thought, did a very good job at the Sharm conference of showing what Iraq is trying to do. They have a struggle internally because they're extremists who are trying to destroy the foundation for a democracy. And so the Vice President will follow up. He'll talk to our allies in the region and I think it'll be very important for them to take a really hard look at what they're doing and to say how can they do more to help the Iraqis.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, what is the status now of U.S.-Saudi relationship? The Vice President will be seeing King Abdallah in Riyadh. The King was critical of U.S. -- what he referred to as the American occupation in Iraq; your interlocutor the Saudi Prince Saud Al-Faisal in Sharm said that we don't see improvement on the ground. And there was talk about the Saudi monarch delaying or postponing a visit to Washington. Talk a little about this relationship.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, our relations are very good with Saudi Arabia. We agree completely on the strategic direction here. We are both concerned about extremism in the region. We are both concerned about al-Qaida and terrorism in the region. And clearly, the Saudis -- for instance on Lebanon, we have had very strong policies that go in the same direction. Saudi Arabia was very generous for the Lebanese Government during the Paris conference. Saudi Arabia has been a leader in helping to get the Arab League Initiative re-launched again out of the Riyadh Summit so that we can use that as one of the foundations to help press forward on Israeli-Palestinian peace, something that we continue to be very dedicated to, something that the President is committed to and we're going to continue to work, so we and the Saudis are working there. Sometimes we have tactical differences, but that really doesn't matter when you're pushing in the same strategic direction.

And as to Iraq, I think it's well understood by our Saudi friends that the American forces are there as a part of the multinational forces. The multinational forces are there, of course, under a UN Security Council resolution and we are all there to help this young Iraqi Government to succeed. And so I hope that the Saudis were reassured by what they heard from the Iraqi Government. But of course, the government of Prime Minister Maliki does have to work hard to make certain that national reconciliation takes place so that Iraq is an Iraq for all Iraqis.

QUESTION: What about the King's visit to Washington?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the King will, I'm sure, at an appropriate time, come, but nothing had been scheduled, in fact. We've talked about it from time to time and the President will welcome him whenever it's possible.

QUESTION: I want to talk about the Syrians and the Iranians at Sharm, but before that. I don't -- I know you don't talk about domestic affairs in a state like Israel, obviously. But after the recent report on the Lebanon war, it seems that the Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Olmert, has suffered a setback. I mean, what would that do to your efforts -- and you've been to the Middle East several times this year -- when you have a besieged Israeli Prime Minister and a weakened Palestinian Authority, essentially a two-headed authority. I mean, what would that do to your efforts to revive talks? It is tough, is it not?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, Israel is a strong democracy and democracies have a way of working their way through issues like this and we look forward to working with the Prime Minister and continuing to push forward. I hope that they will again renew the efforts to have the regular meetings with President Abbas. I think those -- I hope those will continue to go forward.

And we're going to continue to work toward the two-state solution because one thing that we know is that the Israeli people overwhelmingly want to get to a place where they have a neighbor who can be a contributor to their security and we know that the Palestinian people have waited a long time for their state. And so the President and I remain committed to that and as Israelis work through their democratic process, we're going to work with the Prime Minister and his government to move forward.

QUESTION: Okay. Madame Secretary, the Syrians would like to -- your meeting with Minister Walid Mualem in Sharm el-Sheikh to lead to something more, to a broader dialogue. And he obviously, in the meeting, asked you to return the American Ambassador to Damascus. Will they get what they want, both on the broader dialogue and the Ambassador?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, this meeting took place in the context of the neighbors meeting for Iraq. And that was what this conversation was about. It was about Iraq. And it's in the Syrians' interest to have a stable Iraq. It can't be a good thing to have extremists transiting Syria and that was the case that I made to Foreign Minister Mualem. It was a professional, businesslike meeting. But as to broader relations with the United States, there are many other issues. And one --

QUESTION: Lebanon, Palestine?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, of course. And when it comes to Lebanon, I would say very directly to everyone that Lebanese democracy, Lebanese sovereignty is critical to the United States. We consider it one of the most important interests that we hold. The tribunal needs to take place. It needs to take place despite the deadlock that is taking place in Lebanon because the perpetrators of the assassination of Rafik Hariri need to be brought to justice. And the Siniora government, the democratically elected government of Lebanon needs to be supportive -- supported and Lebanon and Lebanese can count on the United States to do that.

QUESTION: So there shouldn't be any concerns in Lebanon, that there is going to be some sort of a --


QUESTION: -- an agreement with Syria or that -- a lessening of the American support for the Tribunal even under Chapter 7?

SECRETARY RICE: Absolutely. If we have to do that, then that's what we will do because it's extremely important that this tribunal take place so that Lebanon can turn to normal life.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, what happened with the -- with your Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki in Sharm el-Sheikh? He somehow skedaddled before you arrived. Was it because he saw a lady wearing a red dress or maybe he saw red when he saw you?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think maybe they should ask the Foreign Minister. Look, it was fine. We had not asked for a bilateral with the Iranians and they had not asked for one with us. We did encounter each other at lunch. It was pleasant and civil. But again, this was not a conference about U.S.-Iranian relations.

QUESTION: Yes, sure.

SECRETARY RICE: This was about Iraq. And I hope that in the context of that meeting, the Iranians will undertake to stop the flow of foreign fighters across their border, to stop the flow of sophisticated weaponry, particularly these explosively formed devices that are really just devastating to innocent Iraqis and to coalition forces who are there under a UN Security Council mandate. And so that was the message of the meeting and I think that message got through.

QUESTION: I don't know if you want to speculate on this matter. Could this be, as some people argue, a function of domestic differences within the government in Tehran or if they want a dialogue that will include the nuclear program?

SECRETARY RICE: You know, I don't know. And I -- no one can read the internal politics of Iran, most especially, not me. But I do hope that the Iranians understand that there are two different channels here. We've always said that if it was appropriate we could use a channel in Baghdad. The Ambassador has -- is there. We did this in Afghanistan.


SECRETARY RICE: And we have a channel for the nuclear issue through Javier Solana and the six states with which we have made the offer to Iran. So the proper channels are there. They're established and they can be used at any time.

QUESTION: I'm sure you're familiar with many voices in this country especially in academia who argue that, look, maybe the United States should remove the military option off the table to entice the Iranians to have a dialogue and that the Iranians may have some concern because of the increase in naval power -- American naval power in the Gulf. Now, that option is still on the table, as the President keeps saying.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the American President is not going to take its options off the table and I would think you don't want the American President to take its options off the table. But the President has also said that he is focused on and committed to a diplomatic course. If the world stays strong, the diplomatic course has a very good chance of working.

And what I would say to the Iranians and in fact had a chance to say to an Iranian journalist when I was in Sharm el-Sheikh is that there are two paths here: one is the path of further isolation; the other is a path of engagement. And the international community has made a UN demand, which is that Iran suspend its enrichment and reprocessing and then there can be a change of 27 years in American foreign policy and we can sit down to talk about whatever is on their minds and on our minds.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, two years ago you gave a very eloquent, well-crafted speech in Cairo where you really laid down the case for democracy promotion in the region. Now, some of your critics now in Cairo and other places in the Arab world believe or get the impression that the United States is now backsliding, backtracking on the democracy agenda because of the fear of Islamists and they point out certain actions or positions by Washington vis-à-vis the Egyptians and other governments in the region. What would you say to those reformers who pinned their hopes on a strong position from the United States on this issue?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me be very clear. The Cairo speech to me was perhaps the most important speech that I have given. And it to me says what America stands for and what this Administration stands for and we're not going to back off that. Now, it is true that this has to be an indigenous move, that the people in Egypt have to take up the course. America cannot bring democracy to Egypt. That was never the intention. But I can tell you that when I talked to the Egyptian leadership, I bring up issues of what is happening with nongovernmental organizations. I bring up issues of people like Ayman Nour. I bring these issues up all the time with the Egyptian leadership because ultimately, Egypt is a great country and Egypt can lead the region to democracy. There have been ups and downs. I think that the presidential elections were a point in time that says Egypt will probably never go back to the kind of presidential elections that it's had in the past.

On the other hand, there have been some steps backward. But I'm a firm believer that without democracy in Egypt, without democracy in the Middle East, without moderate voices having a way to express themselves legitimately, the Middle East is not going to be able to defeat extremism.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I really appreciate it. Thanks so much.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. Thank you.