Friday, May 30, 2008

Secretary Rice on Lebanon and the progress of democracy

US Department of State

Secretary's Remarks: Interview With Michael Winiarski of Dagens Nyheter
Wed, 28 May 2008 23:00:00 -0500

Interview With Michael Winiarski of Dagens Nyheter

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Stockholm, Sweden
May 29, 2008

QUESTION: Okay. Correct me if I'm wrong, I believe a couple of years ago you said that democracy was a piece that was missing from American foreign policy in the Middle East and that you want to turn to this freedom agenda. What's the outcome after – I mean, three, four years ago, it was – looked rather optimistic. In Egypt, Lebanon, even in Palestine there were going to be elections. But now, all this mainstream and moderate forces there are going down, it looks like at least. And at the same time, it looks like it's more about power balance than democracy from the U.S. Administration right now.

SECRETARY RICE: Oh no, not at all. First of all, you can't judge the forward march of democracy in three or four year segments. If you did that, then there are any number of countries that wouldn't have made the hurdle after four or five years as well-established and stable democracies now. I think you could even ask the question as whether the United States four or five years after our terrific Constitution came into being with my relatives as three-fifths of a man, would we have made the hurdle after four or five years? It takes time.

And – but yet, the stirrings of democracy in the Middle East that, frankly, were not there for a long, long time, for a long time, 60 years or more, it was about stability in the Middle East. But if you look – let's take a couple of those situations. Lebanon. Was it more – was there a greater chance for democracy when Syrian forces occupied Lebanon for 30 years? I don't think so. And yes, there is a back-and-forth between Hezbollah and the March 14th forces and the March 8th forces, but it is a democratic process in which people are looking to the elections that will happen next year and in which, frankly, I think Hezbollah has done itself great harm by taking up arms against its own people. This is supposed to be a resistance movement, not a movement against its own people, and I notice that Hassan Nasrallah went to great lengths to try to explain that, actually, Hezbollah was not a movement against its own people. Well, he's got a lot of explaining to do for all of those Lebanese that Hezbollah killed in recent weeks.

So that is a process that has a much better chance at a stable democracy, and it still has a democratic government in place.

QUESTION: But you actually say that it's – the situation from your point of view – is better now than after this Doha accord?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's certainly better than it was when Syrian forces occupied. And I would argue that they have a president now in Michel Suleiman. I think that he will be somebody who will defend their independence and their sovereignty. They apparently are about to have Fuad Siniora again as prime minister, who we know is a fierce defender of Lebanese sovereignty and of democracy. We will help them to build the institutions like their army, which is stronger today than it had been in really decades.

QUESTION: But they didn't use it.

SECRETARY RICE: They didn't use it against their own people. They did use it against terrorists in Nahr al-Bared. And they now have a dialogue internally about the need for all arms to be under the hands of the state.

So again, these things take time. And if you try to judge them in a one-day snapshot or a one-week snapshot or even a one-week – one-year snapshot, it's very difficult to know where they're going.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Secretary Rice on President Suleiman's speech

US Department of State

Secretary Rice's Remarks: Remarks En Route Stockholm, Sweden
Wed, 28 May 2008

Excerpts on Lebanon

QUESTION: One on Lebanon? How did you take President Suleiman's speech or -- at the Parliament? How did you assess that?

SECRETARY RICE: First of all, we very much look forward to working with the new President of Lebanon. We've long supported his election. I'm very glad for the Lebanese people, in particular, that it's finally taken place. And he is someone that we believe will defend Lebanon's interests, Lebanon's independence, Lebanon's sovereignty, and Lebanon's democracy. And we will continue to work with him and those are all elements that he emphasized in his speech. Thank you.

Released on May 28, 2008

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

State Department spokesman on Hezbollah's weapons

US Department of State

Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
May 27, 2008

QUESTION: Can you give us the presence of State Department in the president of Lebanon's inauguration ceremony? And are you worried that Hezbollah is making a case of not giving up arms in this sort of fragile (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to check for you on the first part of your question. In terms of Hezbollah, I think one thing that has been revealed is that they are willing to kill their fellow citizens. This idea that they are somehow defending Lebanon against some external threat, I think, has been completely torn away by the events of the past couple weeks, in which they took up arms against their fellow citizens. And I think that that is a real eye opening event for a lot of people in Lebanon. And from the "politics" of Lebanon, it makes it much more difficult for Hezbollah.

Again, fundamentally, they need to make a choice between participation in politics and acting as what we refer to as a terrorist group. And the issue of Hezbollah's arms is one that is going to be – need to be solved by the Lebanese people and in the context of Lebanese politics.

There are Security Council resolutions addressing the issue. But fundamentally, when the rubber hits the road, it needs to be a Lebanese solution.

QUESTION: On Lebanon as well. I mean, you know, the Iranian – the Syrian foreign ministers were there attending the inauguration, the French, the Italians, everybody was there. And the representation from the U.S. was just a congressional delegation. Why did the Secretary of State not think it was important to go there? I mean, is this a sign that your role and influence in Lebanon has really been dealt a blow by – by the deal that was struck between the government and Hezbollah?


White House and State Department on Election of General Michel Sleiman as President of Lebanon

The White House, President George W. Bush

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 25, 2008

President Bush Congratulates Michel Sleiman on Election as President of Lebanon


I congratulate Michel Sleiman on his election as President of Lebanon. I am confident that Lebanon has chosen a leader committed to protecting its sovereignty, extending the government's authority over all of Lebanon, and upholding Lebanon's international obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions, including 1559, 1701, and 1757. I am hopeful that the Doha Agreement, which paved the way for this election, will usher in an era of political reconciliation to the benefit of all Lebanese. We look forward to working with President Sleiman in pursuit of our common values of freedom and independence.

# # #

US Department of State

Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
May 27, 2008

Inauguration of Lebanese President Michel Sleiman (Taken Question)

Question: Were there any U.S. officials present at the inauguration of Lebanese president Michel Sleiman? If so, who? What contacts have U.S. officials had with President Sleiman since his inauguration?

Answer: The United States was represented by Chargé d'Affaires Michel Sison and a Congressional delegation that included U.S. Representatives Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., Darrell Issa, R-Calif., Ray Lahood, R-Ill., Charlie Melancon, D-La., John Linder, R-Ga., and Jack Kingston, R-Ga. The delegation delivered a letter of congratulations from Secretary Rice. President Bush also contacted President Sleiman by phone.

Released on May 27, 2008

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Interview of Secretary Rice and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband by BBC

Secretary Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband
Interview by Kim Ghattas of BBC
Palo Alto, California
May 22, 2008


QUESTION: We've heard a lot about it over the last few weeks with a speech of President Bush in Israel, with a lot of the political campaign that's taking place in the U.S. at the moment, and also, we'll talk about the U.S. role and leverage in the Middle East. I mean, there are a lot of deals being made by U.S. allies with militants, whether it's in Pakistan or in Lebanon, where we saw the Lebanese Government make a deal with the militant group Hezbollah, which you've described as a positive step, a necessary step. You've said that an agreement is better than no agreement. But surely, it must be a blow to U.S. policy in the region and a blow to the U.S.-backed government in Beirut.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, the United States doesn't believe in a monopoly on diplomacy. We're very glad to see others involved in diplomacy. We backed the Arab League initiative that led to this outcome for Lebanon. This is a circumstance, of course, in which you have a duly elected government and an opposition. And Hezbollah and Amal and the other parties that were a part of that opposition were a part of this deal.

Now, I happen to believe that what this – that the circumstances under which this emerged are actually not, in the long run, good circumstances for Hezbollah. Because Hezbollah, which had styled itself as the great resistance movement against Israel, is now the movement that turned its guns on its own people, and that isn't appropriate in a civilized state like Lebanon.

QUESTION: But it has given Hezbollah more political power. I mean, an agreement is better than no agreement, but an agreement at what cost? To undermine the Lebanese cabinet?

FOREIGN SECRETARY MILIBAND: Well, the agreement to deliver a president to Lebanon, which the Friends of Lebanon have been calling for, for a long time; yes, you're right, to give a greater step to the blocking minority. But I think that many of the issues that they might seek to block have actually already gone through. Condi Rice spoke to the Prime Minister of Lebanon after the agreement. I spoke to him before the agreement. There are important negotiations (inaudible) they need to take forward, including on redistricting, which are important for next year's elections in Lebanon.

And I think the sight of Hezbollah turning their guns on Lebanese people (inaudible) will have sent a chill down many spines in Lebanon and would reinforce the desire for a durable political settlement.

QUESTION: But again, talking to one's enemies, that brings us also to Syria, to Hamas. I mean, Israel is talking to Syria, is talking to Hamas, but the U.S. isn't.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, Israel is not in negotiations with Hamas, is not talking directly (inaudible).

QUESTION: Indirectly.

SECRETARY RICE: No. But the United States doesn't believe in negotiations with Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaida. These are organizations that we view as terrorist organizations. When it comes to Syria, we have diplomatic relations. I, myself, met twice with the Syrian Foreign Minister. And so this notion that somehow the United States doesn't talk to countries with which it has difficulties is simply not right.

Now with Tehran, we have not had diplomatic relations since 1979. And I personally offered to break a 20 – now, 8 year -- 29-year pattern and to meet my counterpart anyplace, anytime, anywhere if they will simply verifiably suspend their enrichment program, something that is demanded by three Security Council resolutions, by the entire international community, by the IAEA. And my question isn't why won't we talk to Tehran; my question is why won't Tehran talk to us?

QUESTION: But – I mean, it still raises the question – I mean, why is it appeasement if – you know, Americans talk directly to some of those people, like Jimmy Carter going to talk to Hamas? And why is it not appeasement when a U.S. ally makes a deal with a group like Hamas, like Hezbollah, or with the militants in Pakistan?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let's be clear. Hezbollah stood for election in Lebanon. It's a part of the political system. We understand that, and this will have to have a Lebanese answer. And we understand that the circumstances of some of our allies and the circumstances of the United States are not identical. So we wouldn't ask that every country behaves in exactly the same way that the United States does on these issues with Hezbollah. They are a part of the political structure.

Now, we believe that it is extremely important that the question of Hezbollah's arms and the unified state with all of the guns in the hands of the state, that is an important issue and I believe it's an issue that Lebanese are going to turn to. But the President was using an historical point, which is that it's fine to talk to people, and that's not the problem. As I said, we've offered to talk to Tehran. We do talk to Syria.

The question is: What's going to be the outcome of the talk? You don't do diplomacy just to talk. You try to have outcomes. And that means that you need to have leverage, you need to have prepared the ground. And when you have, as we are now doing through the six-party talks with North Korea, you can sometimes get good outcomes.

..........When it comes to places like Lebanon or the Palestinian territories, we believe that we're going to have give decent, moderate forces a – the tools that they need to demonstrate to their people that there's another way in. That's why, in Lebanon, we will continue to back the professionalization of the army. That's why we'll continue to back the government. It's why, in the Palestinian territories, it's so important that the Palestinians have a state. And the President's desire and commitment to a state for a Palestinian people that have suffered too long, the state that they deserve, that they have a right to, we're going to do everything that we can to help Israelis and Palestinians end their conflict.

Released on May 22, 2008

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Briefing on Lebanon and Other Middle East Issues by Assistant Secretary of State David Welch

C. David Welch, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs
Washington, DC
May 21, 2008

(9:50 a.m. EDT)

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's nice to see some of our regular – all of our regular gaggle participants as well as some of those of you who don't show up on a regular basis. But anyway, I can understand the attraction why.

The way I wanted to handle this was have David handle your questions about the obvious issues that are out there today, and then I'll stay behind to answer any other non-David Welch, Middle East-related questions. So I'll turn it over to David.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Thanks, Sean. Let me just preface my remarks by saying we expect, I hope not too long from now, that Sean will give you a statement in the name of the Secretary about the agreement in Doha on Lebanon. I can address any questions that you have about that.

Let me make a couple remarks at the outset. As you all know, Lebanon has been going through a significant political crisis which, very, very unfortunately, spilled over into the streets of Beirut beginning on the 5th of May. That this agreement has been reached in Doha is really a welcome development. It's a necessary and positive step toward accomplishing what the Arab League's initiative on Lebanon was designed to do, which was: first, to elect a president of Lebanon – as you know, there hasn't been someone in that office, the highest Christian office in Lebanon, since November; second, the Arab League initiative called for forming a new government and that – the basis for that has also now been agreed in Doha; and third, the Arab initiative also asked that Lebanon's electoral law be addressed. And the Lebanese politicians gathered in Doha also agreed on that.

As you know, throughout this crisis, before, during it, and today and afterwards, the United States supports the legitimate authorities in Lebanon, including the government and its security establishment. And we believe that the Government of Lebanon and the legitimate security forces of Lebanon should extend their authority over all the country.

We commend the efforts of the Arab League. In particular, I would like to single out the diplomatic effort led by Qatar under the leadership of the Amir, and in particular of the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim. They, together with the foreign ministers, six of them who comprised the Arab committee and the Secretary General of the Arab League, did a very good job under extremely difficult circumstances to forge this agreement.

Now, the next step is for it to be implemented. We would like to see that done in its entirety. As you know, this agreement has some – several provisions, including an important one related to security in addition to the political ones that I mentioned at the outset. We believe this should be done in accordance with what the Arab League set out at the outset and in conformity with the Security Council resolutions for Lebanon.

Okay. Those are the introductory comments I have to make, and I'm happy to address any of your questions about this. We're on the record, just to repeat.

QUESTION: So then we shouldn't expect much in the way of answers? (Laughter.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, it depends. You know, maybe you'll get something. If you look at it carefully, it might even surprise you.

QUESTION: David, is this the – sort of the best face you can put on it? I mean, you've got an agreement that Iran and Syria immediately praised. It nearly doubles the number of seats in parliament that the opposition will have and gives them effective veto power. How can that be a necessary –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Doubles the number of seats in parliament?


QUESTION: In the cabinet.

QUESTION: In the cabinet, I mean.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: In the government. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: From six to eleven. I mean, how can this be necessary and positive from – for U.S. goals in the Mideast?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, look, let's step back from this for a second. First of all, there are a number of governments who've acclaimed this, and that Lebanon should move forward to resolve some of these political issues I think is really important. And if Syria and Iran have supported that, then perhaps they will continue to exercise a more constructive role in Lebanon. We would like to see that. It would come as a bit of a surprise to us, but the results are what counts.

As you know, Lebanon had a cabinet that included members of the opposition until November of '06. They left because of political disagreements, and that escalated the difficulties that have arisen. You know, we support the majority in this. The majority agreed with this decision, and they comprise a majority of the seats in the new cabinet that will be formed.

You know, it's not for us to decide how Lebanon does this, how Lebanon's political leadership addresses it. And the people of Lebanon will – when they do have a new parliamentary election in '09, will have a chance to record their own views about this and other aspects of what their political leadership has done.

When there were members of the opposition in the cabinet, if they were members of Hezbollah, the United States did not have a relationship with them. If there's a new cabinet formed and it includes members of the opposition who are Hezbollahis, that'll be the case in the future, too. You know our views on Hezbollah.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that? I mean, doesn't this set up a scenario where we're bound to be at the same place in a few months if the Lebanese Government – if the opposition continues to veto some of the policies of the Lebanese Government, you're just going to lead to a similar place again?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, I don't think so. But of course, I can't predict everything in the future. Again, let's look at what happened here. I mean, there hasn't been a president. Now there will be one. Second, the cabinet had been divided, as I said, since the walkout of members of the opposition. Now there's to be a new cabinet, which will comprise members of the opposition as well.

I don't know whether – I mean, most of you probably don't know this, but the political tradition in Lebanon, when it comes to government decisions, is for consensus. Most Lebanese politics are formed around that principle. And it's very difficult for Lebanese to get to consensus, but they generally hold to it once they can. I think there were over 4,000 cabinet decisions for this cabinet when the opposition was in it, that were arrived at by consensus. When – if you look at what would have likely been the result under some of the earlier proposals, this still gives to the majority in the cabinet, under this or any of the previous configurations, the right to take simple decisions by majority vote. Traditionally, those have been accomplished by consensus. But, yes, because there is a blocking minority, the minority is able to block major decisions if they seek to do so.

QUESTION: Do you think this leaves Hezbollah in a stronger position now than it was previously?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, it's – you know, some have argued that they are accomplishing political objectives by intimidation and violence. I have to say that what happened on the 5th of May and thereafter is deeply disturbing in that respect. I think most Lebanese people – I mean, average people reacted very badly to that. As you can see, their public protests are not limited to political parties in Lebanon. Many people in Lebanon are upset over the situation that has evolved, press and editorial commentary throughout the Arab world has been very critical of Hezbollah's actions.

The veil of resistance was ripped off this organization on the 5th of May when it took up guns against innocent people, against press establishments, against other political parties. You know, I – we have to see that for what it is, and I think the reaction to it has been extremely negative from most Lebanese and certainly throughout the region. That's why you saw this energized Arab diplomacy to address this.

Again, this is not the end of this crisis and Lebanon still has to go through implementing this agreement. These are very delicate and political subjects for them and – however, I think we can go – we can see now that there could be a respite that would be very useful to heal some of these problems. And at the end of the day, it'll be up to Lebanese to judge whether they prefer politics as they saw it on the streets of Beirut on the days following the 5th of May, or whether they prefer a more consensual and traditional approach to it.


QUESTION: Israel and Syria have launched indirect talks with the mediation of Turkey. A couple of questions on that. Was the U.S. involved in facilitating those talks? Did you encourage Turkey to play the mediating role? And what is the U.S. role in this? And is this part of the Annapolis process and how do you see this going forward? Are you looking at changing how you view Syria because of the this?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: It's our understanding that they've agreed to conduct some indirect talks under the auspices of Turkey. There's been a statement from the Prime Minister's office in Israel. And I gather, but I haven't seen it, that there's a similar, almost identical statement from the Syrian foreign ministry. In those statements, the parties declared their intention to proceed in good faith in these conversations with an open mind, trying to achieve an agreement.

Israel and Turkey have apprised us in the past of these discussions and kept us informed since their inception. I think Turkey played a good and useful role in this regard. You know, we have – we think the expansion of the circle of peace would be a good thing. And, of course, it would be very, very helpful if that included an agreement with Syria. That said, President Bush, during his – as recently as his trip to the region, declared that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians offer special promise, and we're working to conclude an agreement by the end of the year on this. Those parties are in direct negotiation. So that's what I have to say about that at this point.

QUESTION: How was the U.S. involved at all? Are you helping to facilitate these talks?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: No, Turkey played that role. We're, as you know, not – we haven't done that directly between the two. Turkey played a good role. We were kept informed. That's where it is.

QUESTION: But Syria did not inform you. You said only Israel –


QUESTION: – and Turkey. You were not in consultations with Syria on that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, the Syrians made some statements to the press that were suggestive, but not very specific as this last one was.

QUESTION: In the past –


QUESTION: On the issue of Hezbollah arms, how would you like to see it going from here? And if a national unity government emerges, how would you like this issue to be handled by them? And there is real fear that with the blocking third, maybe some decisions on the tribunal might be reversed or, you know, the tribunal for Hariri will not take progress as it was supposed to be. I mean, how do you address these two issues?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, those are very good questions and thank you for asking them. First of all, let me be clear that there are – there's an international standard in Security Council resolutions about what should happen with respect to weapons in the hands of militias or nongovernmental parties in Lebanon, and those are really explicit. There should be only one legal authority for security in Lebanon and that is the Government of Lebanon and its security establishment. Militias should be disarmed. That's in 1559 and it's reflected in 1701 as well.

In the Doha agreement there are provisions that relate to the authority of the state and to the use of – or enjoining against the use of weapons to achieve political gains. I don't know if you all have seen the Doha agreement. It's actually got quite a bit of language on this issue. And it says that the Lebanese have to address this. That's – that was the case with – in the past as well. I think this is a really serious problem for Lebanon because it's clear from the events of early May that the possession in the hands of one party of considerable military authority and power is deeply corrosive to open, transparent and fair politics.

And I think that the agreement that's been reached is, in a way, a reaction to that and a setback for the Hezbollahis because now it has been inscribed again on the national agenda with some prominence that something has got to be done about this. That doesn't mean it's going to be resolved immediately. I understand how difficult that is. But let's – the moral plane here has shifted back again. And I think the people are pretty disgusted with what happened in early May, too.

With respect to the tribunal, once the Security Council acted to establish the tribunal, it was game over with respect to any further decisions required. The international investigation is proceeding. The tribunal is available for action when the investigation is ripe to proceed to prosecution, and that is what I expect will happen. I don't see any further decisions that the Government of Lebanon would have to take in that respect.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: In the past, members of Mr. Olmert's government have indicated that it was U.S. reservations about any talks with Syria, whether direct or indirect, which was one of their reasons for hesitating in going down that path. Can you tell us about how well-founded that perception was and whether those U.S. reservations have been appeased?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: I think that that expression of our reservation conflates two issues in an unfair manner. It's a question we get often. One is – one question is: Would we agree, or would we like to see, peace between Israel and any of its neighbors who do not have peace relations? The answer to that is yes. We have no objection to that. Indeed, we support that as a goal.

The second is, we do have reservations about the foreign policy behavior of Syria, and for that matter, its internal politics as well. We have expressed those many times, including directly to the Israelis. I have to say they share our concerns. That said, Israel lives in a difficult neighborhood; it's in its national interest to find ways to expand the circle of peace if other people are serious about doing it, and I see that they're undertaking that experiment now.

QUESTION: Is this – does this mean that the U.S. is not – is going to continue to play the role it has played in this process, which is nothing at all? I just –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, the role that we are playing is directly with respect to encouraging the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that are underway.

QUESTION: Does that mean that you don't foresee a role for the U.S. or U.S. officials in –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: We haven't been asked – we haven't been asked to play one.

QUESTION: Well, are you willing to consider the idea? Is this something –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: We haven't been asked. So if we're asked, we'll consider it.

QUESTION: What role have you been playing with the Hamas truce effort with the Egyptians in the past few days?


QUESTION: None at all?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: No. The Egyptians are working that problem themselves to try and convince the Hamas militants in Gaza that a ceasefire is in the interests of the people of Gaza. And so far, unfortunately for the people of Gaza, they have not yet succeeded in doing that.

QUESTION: David, it's hard to – not to conclude that you are not enthusiastic, perhaps, about –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: I would describe myself as dispassionate at this point. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Dispassionate. Interesting. Well, I was going to say –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: I'm a dispassionate kind of guy, Arshad.

QUESTION: But you're (inaudible) on the Israel-Syria?

QUESTION: But you're spending a huge amount of time on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.


QUESTION: And it sounds like you're not spending a speck of time on the Israeli-Syrian matter. And consistently since Annapolis and even before that, you have – U.S. officials have emphasized that they saw their focus as being on Israeli-Palestinian, that that was the track that was moving. Again, very hard to conclude that you didn't think other tracks were likely to be fruitful and your emphasis was elsewhere.

Two questions. One, is that not a fair assessment that even though you would like to see Israel secure a peace agreement with Syria, or indeed any of its neighbors, that you don't think this is perhaps the best track to pursue at this moment? And secondly, do you think that there is sufficient bandwidth in the system for Israel to be negotiating on two tracks, given the extreme difficulty of both?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, on the latter, that's more of a judgment for Israel and Israelis to make.

On the former, objectively, when we looked at where we would like to put our foreign policy emphasis here, I think we saw the Palestinian track as most promising, we – in particular after the change of government on the Palestinian side last summer, about a year ago. When that happened, it seemed to suggest to us that there was a promise, really, to reorient the equation here. And yes we did, Arshad, as you point out, invest a great deal in trying to change the circumstances to build international support, to reopen a political track. We invested a lot of effort by the Secretary of State and the President personally in doing that. The Annapolis conference served as a launching pad for real, direct negotiations, which is where we are now. And we're heavily involved in trying to encourage progress in those negotiations. And we would like to have real achievements on that track by the end of the year.

This does not mean that we would not favor the expansion of such efforts between Israel and Lebanon and between Israel and Syria. That said, I mean, Lebanon had its own problems and, frankly, we had our concerns about Syrian behavior in any number of dimensions that suggested to us it would be rather more difficult to pursue that track. That Israel has been able to open some sort of indirect conversation about these matters with the Syrian Government with the good offices of Turkey is a good thing. I mean, I'm not saying it's not. And we hope it prospers. But where we're making the major investment right now is on the Palestinian track.

QUESTION: Given that your close and longstanding ally, Israel, believes it is worth its effort to invest in the Syrian track, why isn't the Administration willing to do more to support them in that, rather than dispassionate and focus elsewhere?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, look, direct negotiations are always the best way to proceed. In the past, peace has been built when the two parties, whoever they may be, are directly engaged with one another. And so, just looking at what's happening right now, I think – again, I don't want to speak for the Israeli Government, but I think they would argue that what they're doing with the Palestinians is of an entirely different dimension and character.

QUESTION: Just one question then on Syria. Now that Syria and Israel are publicly talking about negotiations, indirect negotiations, how would that affect negotiations with Hamas? Could Hamas be involved in eventual negotiations? Could people eventually decide to start talking to Hamas because Syria is a backer of Hamas?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: It's a completely different issue. Syria is a country. Hamas is a militant terrorist group. The Palestinian Authority and the PLO represent Palestinians in negotiations with Israel, and that's who's conducting the talks for them now.

QUESTION: Since Syria backs Hamas, could they push for Hamas to be involved in the negotiations on the Palestinian front?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: I don't see that and I don't think it would work.

QUESTION: David --

MR. MCCORMACK: Last – last question.

QUESTION: Your answer to my question didn't address the question of why you are not interested in –


QUESTION: I know, but you didn't answer.

MR. MCCORMACK: Let's get to Samir.

QUESTION: President Bush and Secretary Rice will meet with Cardinal Sfeir from Lebanon today.


QUESTION: What are you going to tell him? I mean, what --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, we haven't told him yet, so how do I know? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: What's the message that you will –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, we have a lot of respect for the Patriarch. As you know, he is the Patriarch of the Maronites and they are, of course, the most important Christian community in Lebanon. He has very substantial moral influence over his flock and beyond it, in fact. So out of respect for his role in Lebanon, the President would like to hear from him and talk to him about how we see the future of Lebanon. You know, he has some influence over how Maronites view their political circumstances in the country, and the trouble over electing a president has essentially been a difficulty for Maronites because that's the highest Christian office in the land.

QUESTION: So it's a good timing for his visit today?


QUESTION: It's good timing for his visit today.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, his visit was planned before, and so it's – it is good timing, but it's fortuitous.

QUESTION: And if you could, without going back to the line – the Administration line that, you know, everything is completely unrelated to anything else and that no matter how close they are or how similar they may appear to 99 percent of the population, they're, in fact, completely unrelated, if you – without going back to that, could you explain why you're not concerned at all that the agreement that's been struck in Doha could end up something like the failed agreement between Hamas and Abbas' people in the PA, this kind of power-sharing agreement that involves a group that you consider to be militant terrorists?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, you know, I don't like to compare apples and oranges, really. I consider the Palestinian situation, just in its history, its political character, completely different from Lebanon. You know, in the case of Lebanon, there was not a solution about how to elect a president even though there was a consensus about who the president would be because there were a variety of different moving pieces about what the political future ought to be with respect to the distribution of seats within the national unity government, how you're going to conduct a parliamentary election next time around, what is the proper role of the political parties in the political life of the country. You know, this – we commend Qatar for leading this effort. You know, it's difficult. This is not, I would argue, not a perfect solution, but it is much better than the alternatives, especially the kind of violence and disturbance that we have seen inside of Lebanon.

No one wants to see a return to the violence of the past that had characterized the Lebanese civil war, most of all Lebanese. They're fed up with that. I think you saw that in the spontaneous demonstrations of people after the violence had calmed down in the streets, when they had a chance to go back out. And you know, I think the people who run some of these militant operations have got to look at what is the public view of what they're doing. You know, Hamas is hurting the people of Gaza far more than it's helping them by this behavior, and Hezbollah was shooting Lebanese. They're not using their weapons to defend against some mythical Israeli enemy –

QUESTION: Is that an acknowledgement of one similarity?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, in their behavior, absolutely.

QUESTION: And that they both begin with H?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: (Laughter.) No. In their behavior, absolutely. No, I mean if they're prepared to use violence instead of peaceful means –

QUESTION: So I guess that means that's why you're concerned, on your part, that it could deteriorate like the – what happened in – in the PA?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: I think it did deteriorate. Look, what happened in early May was deeply disturbing and presented enormous risk to Lebanon, and to the area for that matter. And we believe it was instigated not merely by one party in Lebanon but by some of their supporters outside. That that has been halted and now may even be reversed with some damage to Hezbollah in the public eye is really important. And again, you have to weigh it – it's not perfect as a solution, but you have to weigh it against the alternative, which would be a further deterioration –

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, that's it, guys.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Thank you all. Thank you.

Released on May 21, 2008

United States Welcomes the Doha Agreement on Lebanon

Statement by Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
May 21, 2008

The United States welcomes the agreement reached by Lebanese leaders in Doha, Qatar. We view this agreement as a positive step towards resolving the current crisis by electing a President, forming a new government, and addressing Lebanon's electoral law, consistent with the Arab League initiative. The United States supports the government of Lebanon and its complete authority over the entire territory of the country.

The United States commends the efforts of the Arab League's committee of Foreign Ministers, in particular the leadership of the Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, and Secretary General Amr Moussa.

We call upon all Lebanese leaders to implement this agreement in its entirety, in accordance with the Arab League initiative and in conformity with UN Security Council resolutions.

Released on May 21, 2008

Monday, May 19, 2008

White House's positions on the latest crisis in Lebanon-updated May18,2008

Press Briefing by the National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley (press release), DC – May 18, 2008
Lebanon, there also is an opportunity. As you know, there are negotiations going on among the major Lebanese factions, being brokered by Arab leaders and by ...


President Bush Meets with President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority (press release), DC - May 17, 2008
First, I do want to discuss Lebanon. The President is deeply concerned about Lebanon, the fate of the Siniora government, as am I. We're concerned about ...


President's Radio Address (press release), DC - May 17, 2008
We reaffirmed our shared objectives of peace in the Holy Land, a secure and united Iraq and a sovereign, independent Lebanon that is free of outside ...


Briefing by National Security Advisor Steve Hadley (press release), DC - May 16, 2008
They talked about Iran and the concern that both leaders have that recent events in Lebanon will embolden Iran. The two countries are of one mind, ...


President Bush Meets with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert (press release), DC - May 14, 2008
We also discussed the situation in Lebanon. We observed the events in Lebanon and we are very much concerned that there will be an attempt to upset the ...


President Bush Meets with Israeli President Peres (press release), DC - May 14, 2008
In Lebanon, Hezbollah is simply destroying Lebanon. It's a matter that concerns not only the United States or Israel, it concerns the Arab world. ...


Press Gaggle by Dana Perino and National Security Advisor Steve ... (press release), DC - May 14, 2008
And in the middle of this, of course, summer of '06, you have the war between Hezbollah and Israel waged in southern Lebanon -- not the most auspicious time ...


Interview of the President by Lukman Ahmed, Bbc Arabic (press release), DC - May 13, 2008
Q You have given -- we are going to Lebanon. You are giving Hezbollah the choice of being terrorist organization or a political party. ...


Interview of the President by Jacob Eilon and Gil Tamari, Channel ... (press release), DC - May 13, 2008
Look what's happening in Lebanon now -- a young democracy trying to survive. By the way, it's in Israel's interests that the Lebanese democracy survive. ...

Press Gaggle by Dana Perino (press release), DC - May 13, 2008
Has he -- has the White House reached out to the Lebanon government, and is there a chance that if he leaves Lebanon he won't be able to get back home? MS. ...


Statement by the President (press release), DC - May 12, 2008
The United States will continue to firmly support the Government of Lebanon, led by Prime Minister Siniora, against this effort to undermine the hard-fought ...


Interview of the President by Nadia Bilbassy-Charters, AL Arabiya TV (press release), DC - May 12, 2008
And of course we're going to focus on Lebanon. You have been a strong supporter of Prime Minister Siniora. Yet when he came under attack, he seems to be ...


Statement on the Violence on Beirut (press release), DC - May 9, 2008
The Hizballah terrorist organization, aided by its Iranian and Syrian sponsors, continues to undermine Lebanon's sovereignty and democratic institutions. ...


Press Briefing by Gordon Johndroe (press release), DC - May 9, 2008
In Lebanon, we are very troubled by the recent actions of Hezbollah. We urge Hezbollah to stop their attempt to defy the lawful decisions taken by the ...



National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley on Lebanon

The White House, President George W. Bush

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 18, 2008

Press Briefing by the National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley
Continental Garden Reef Resort
Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt


Lebanon, there also is an opportunity. As you know, there are negotiations going on among the major Lebanese factions, being brokered by Arab leaders and by the Arab League. This can lead to an end to the political stalemate, but only if it does not reward Hezbollah, and if it supports the elected government that was put in office by the people of Lebanon. And part of that opportunity is the fact that the people of Lebanon are realizing that in the events of the last 10 days, Hezbollah was not, as they claimed, defending Lebanon against Israel; Hezbollah was using its militia against the Lebanese government and against the Lebanese people. And that is the context in which those discussions need to occur.
It is important that all the regional states who share the concern about what's happening in the region, are willing to make strategic investments in peace and a better future for the Middle East by supporting the Lebanese government, by supporting Salam Fayyad and President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, and by supporting Iraq in its struggle against illegal militias in the southern part of its country.

Hezbollah made a move in the last 10 days, and at one level it had tactical success in their ability to terrorize the Lebanese people and threaten the government, and that looks like a tactical success. One of the things that's interesting is that people in the region and people in Lebanon are now suggesting that it perhaps was a strategic failure, because it stripped away the rationale that Hezbollah has used to protect its militia from being disbanded and brought under the authority of the government.

And that rationale was, the militia was needed to defend Lebanon against Israel, and what we saw in the last 10 days, and what the Lebanese people are beginning to say is, hey, this militia was used against us and against our duly-elected government. And that is an opportunity for the Lebanese forces of democracy and freedom, and for those in the region that support it, to hold Hezbollah to account and hopefully to clip its wings a little bit. We will have to see. This is a story very much in progress.


Pres Bush in his meeting with Pres Abbas expresses concerns about Lebanon, supports the Siniora Gov, and criticizes Hezbollah-May17,2008

The White House, President George W. Bush

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 17, 2008

President Bush Meets with President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority
Hyatt Regency Sharm el Sheikh Resort
Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt

PRESIDENT BUSH: Mr. President, thank you for your time, and thank you for your courage.

We talked about two issues primarily. First, I do want to discuss Lebanon. The President is deeply concerned about Lebanon, the fate of the Siniora government, as am I. We're concerned about radical elements undermining the democracy. It is clear that Hezbollah, which has been funded by Iran, can no longer justify its position as a defender against Israel when it turns on its own people. This is a defining moment; it's a moment that requires us to stand strongly with the Siniora government and to support the Siniora government. And the President was quite articulate about his concerns -- and I appreciate you sharing your strategy with me.

President George W. Bush is joined by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Saturday, May 17, 2008, as they speak with members of the media following their meeting in Sharm el-Shiek, Egypt. White House photo by Chris Greenberg And then we talked, of course, about the Palestinian state. I told the President that I am absolutely committed to working with he and his negotiators, as well as the Israelis, to get a state defined. And I do so for a couple of reasons. One, it breaks my heart to see the vast potential of the Palestinian people really wasted. They're good, smart, capable people that when given a chance will build a thriving homeland. It'll be an opportunity to end the suffering that takes place in the Palestinian Territory.

And the second reason I am for it is because it's the only way for lasting peace. The President and his team are committed to peace. They stand squarely against those who use violence to stop the peace process. And for that I admire you and your team, Mr. President, and I commit to you once again that our government will help achieve a dream, a dream that you have -- and the truth of the matter is, a dream that the Israelis have, which is two states living side by side in peace.

So thank you for coming, appreciate it.

PRESIDENT ABBAS: (As translated.) Mr. President, thank you very much for receiving us today. Of course we have talked about the peace process and the negotiations that are taking place these days between us and the Israeli side. We know very well that you, personally, as well as your administration, are committed to reach peace before the end of 2008. Therefore, we are working very seriously and very aggressively with the hope that we will be able to achieve this objective before the end of the year.

We have talked with the President about the details of the negotiations that are taking place between our side and the Israeli side. And of course we also talked about a wide range of issues that affect the entire region, but also affects the Palestinian people. Because it is very important for us that the entire Arab region will be living in stability in order to be able to achieve peace in our Palestinian Territory.

We are very delighted that the President is following all the details of everything and every discussion that is taking place in the Palestinian negotiations, as well as issues in the region.

President George W. Bush shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Saturday, May 17, 2008, at the conclusion of their meeting with members of the media in Sharm el-Shiek, Egypt. White House photo by Chris Greenberg Therefore, we're delighted to continue our engagement with you, Mr. President, in order to be able to achieve all the objectives, which are ours and yours at the same time.

Thank you.

END 6:44 P.M. (Local)

Monday, May 12, 2008





Office of the Press Secretary



For Immediate Release                        May 12, 2008




I strongly condemn Hizballah's recent efforts, and those of their foreign sponsors in Tehran and Damascus, to use violence and intimidation to bend the government and people of Lebanon to their will. The United States will continue to firmly support the Government of Lebanon, led by Prime Minister Siniora, against this effort to undermine the hard-fought gains in sovereignty and independence the Lebanese people have made in recent years. The international community will not allow the Iranian and Syrian regimes, via their proxies, to return Lebanon to foreign domination and control.  To ensure the safety and security of the people of Lebanon, the United States will continue its assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces to ensure they are able to defend the Lebanese Government and safeguard its institutions.


It is critical that the international community come together to assist the Lebanese people in their hour of need. I plan to consult with regional leaders on my upcoming trip to the Middle East to coordinate efforts to support the Lebanese Government and implement U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701, among others, which seek to bolster Lebanon's sovereignty against external efforts at destabilization and interference. The Lebanese people have sacrificed much for the sake of their freedom, and the United State s will continue to stand with them against this latest assault on their independence and security.


# # # 


Friday, May 09, 2008

Secretary Rice's Remarks: United States Condemns Violence in Lebanon

United States Condemns Violence in Lebanon

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
May 9, 2008

The United States is deeply concerned about the ongoing violence in Lebanon. We condemn the use of force by illegitimate armed groups and call upon all parties to respect the rule of law.

Backed by Syria and Iran, Hezbollah and its allies are killing and injuring fellow citizens, undermining the legitimate authority of the Lebanese government and the institutions of the Lebanese state.

Seeking to protect their state-within-a-state, Hezbollah has exploited its allies and demonstrated its contempt for its fellow Lebanese. No one has a right to deprive Lebanese citizens of their political and economic freedom, their right to move freely within their country, or their sense of safety and security.

Our support for the legitimate Lebanese government, its democratic institutions, and its security services is unwavering. This support is a reflection of our unshakeable commitment to the Lebanese people and their hope for democratic change, economic prosperity, and confessional harmony.

We will stand by the Lebanese government and peaceful citizens of Lebanon through this crisis and provide the support they need to weather this storm.

Released on May 9, 2008


Friday, May 02, 2008

Secretray Rice on Syrian-Israeli talks and on Lebanon

Secretary's Remarks: Meetings in London
Thu, 1 May 2008

Meetings in London

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
En Route to London, England
May 1, 2008


QUESTION: Madame Secretary, first, do you support the Turkish mediation between Syria and Israel and will you mediate between Israel and Syria in the future? And second, there were stories yesterday that there was a meeting in Jordan between Prime Minister Olmert and a Syrian official. Do you have anything on that?

SECRETARY RICE: I don't. I'm not going to comment on other people's meetings or non-meetings. I don't have anything on it.

But in terms of the reports of Turkish mediation between Syria and Israel, we have confidence in Turkey, we have confidence in Israel. I think it's quite clear that we don't have much confidence in Syria. But we have long said that the United States has no intention or no desire to stand in the way of efforts toward peace on any of their – the tracks.

The Annapolis process made clear that the Palestinian track is the most mature; it is the one that must be pushed forward, whatever else is pursued.

And I might just note, too, that Lebanon, which is still awaiting Syria's demarcation of its border, which is still awaiting proper diplomatic representation, an Ambassador from Syria to Lebanon, must not be left at the sidelines, whatever else takes place in this process. Because 1701 is extremely important. It also has certain issues that the UN is trying to deal with about territory. But the most important thing is that Syria needs to demarcate that border. And I would hope that this would not get lost. Let me put it this way: The United States will insist that it not get lost, whatever else is going on, but we are not going to ever stand in the way of peace, if that is the case, if people wish to pursue it.