Thursday, January 25, 2007

Secretary Rice interview on LBC

Interview With Marcel Ghanem of Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Paris, France
January 25, 2007

QUESTION: Dr. Rice, good afternoon and thank you for joining us in this exclusive interview. Do you think that the support provided to Lebanon is a kind of delay to avoid the collapse of Lebanon until a final settlement of its internal crisis is reached?

SECRETARY RICE: I think that the show of support today for Lebanon is a show of support for the democratic process in Lebanon, for the reform process and for the people of Lebanon. Every speaker spoke about the tremendous burdens that have been put on Lebanon by the tragedy this summer coming out of the war, but also by the political crisis. But this is a show of support because people believe in Lebanon's future.

QUESTION: Yes, but the Lebanese opposition scored a point before yesterday. They (inaudible) be canceled. How do you deal with this?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, you look at the difference of people burning tires to keep people from going to work, and today an expression that the public sector -- private sector ought to be providing jobs for Lebanese people, ought to be providing housing for Lebanese people. That's where the leadership is, in providing for the needs of people, not somehow burning tires so they can't go to work.

And so I would hope that the Lebanese people understand that this conference is for all Lebanese. Prime Minister Siniora made very clear that he is here representing all of Lebanon and that the money that is pledged here will be used to help the poorest in Lebanon and also to help Lebanon's economy develop.

QUESTION: Dr. Rice, is Lebanon at the brink of a new civil war?

SECRETARY RICE: Lebanese people do not want to have a violent confrontation. That is very clear. There are those, I think, who would like to see violence in Lebanon.


SECRETARY RICE: But -- well, perhaps those from the outside that don't want to see a successful Lebanon, or those from the outside who after years of intimidation of the Lebanese people, of occupation of Lebanese country -- of the Lebanese country, do not really want to see Lebanon independent and sovereign.

But the Lebanese people want to live in peace. They want to live in economic prosperity. And I hope that all political elements will really represent now the desires of the Lebanese people. You have a democratically elected government. That government should be allowed to govern and it should be allowed to move forward with this kind of strong international support.

QUESTION: But what is the role of Syria and Iran?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don't think that the role of Syria and Iran has frankly been very constructive. In fact, Syria, which is a neighbor of Lebanon and there should be no problem with it, will not even recognize Lebanon to send an ambassador to Lebanon, as you should do with any neighboring state, because Syria appears not to want to recognize the full sovereignty of Lebanon. But the international community represents and recognizes the full sovereignty of Lebanon. Resolution 1701, which ended the conflict this summer, is precisely to help Lebanon extend its sovereignty throughout the country, and that is going to continue to be the goal of the international community.

QUESTION: But also, as you know, Dr. Rice, Hezbollah doesn't seem to be willing to give up its weapons. No one seems to have the will nor capacity to disarm Hezbollah. How do you see a potential solution for this problem, like a new UN resolution under Chapter 7?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, there is already a UN resolution, first 1559 and then 1701, because ultimately all arms need to be in the hands of the Lebanese Government and the Lebanese security forces, which are being reformed, which are being supported. The United States and Europe are supporting the reform of the Lebanese armed forces. No democracy can exist with militias that operate outside of the governmental process. We saw the problem with that this summer when Hezbollah, as a state within a state, launched an attack across an international line.

But it's going to have to be a Lebanese process that comes to terms with this issue. What we are doing right now is to support Lebanon, support the Lebanese people. The United States pledged today $770 million to support Lebanon. The world is pledging funding. But it's more than funding. People are pledging political support, and Lebanon will have the international community as a friend.

QUESTION: Dr. Rice, the stability in Lebanon is based on the region and balance of power. Don't you think that a dialogue with Syria and Iran is a must, especially after the deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that it's fine for people to have regional dialogues if they see fit. From our point of view, we have given an opportunity to Iran for dialogue. I was prepared to change 27 years of policy and to talk with my Iranian counterpart if they will just abandon their path toward a nuclear weapon.

With Syria, we've -- the United States has diplomatic relations with Syria. We've talked and talked and talked. But this isn't about talk. This is about action. And if Iran and Syria adopt policies that are, in fact, stabilizing to the region rather than destabilizing, rather than destabilizing to Lebanon, destabilizing to the Palestinian territories, destabilizing to Iraq, then they can be helpful in the international community. But they know how to do that. They don't need to tell me -- have me tell them.

QUESTION: Okay. But is there still room for compromise with the current regime in Syria?

SECRETARY RICE: We want the regime to change its behavior in Syria and we've made that very, very clear. But again, this is not difficult. They know what to do. They simply need to do it.

QUESTION: Does any potential agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia to settle the Lebanese crisis have a chance to last and will Washington approve it? And what if Syria is not involved in such agreement?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, from my point of view, this is for the Lebanese to decide. If regional powers can help them, that's fine. But Lebanon has to be in agreement. The Lebanese Government, the democratically elected Lebanese Government, has to be in agreement with how to resolve this crisis.

I would hope that the Arab initiative, Arab League initiative that Amr Moussa has been talking about, that other regional efforts will carry forward. But they must respect the democratic choices that Lebanese people made in their elections more than a year ago and they must respect the international community's demand that there be a tribunal so that those who have perpetrated horrible crimes, including the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, can be brought to justice.

QUESTION: Last question, Dr. Rice. How would the U.S. deal with the potential presidential vacancy, especially that the conditions to conduct elections could not be met in September?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I simply hope that the conditions will be met and that Lebanon can elect a president that is a part of its future. It's an important position and it needs to be a part of Lebanon's future.

But I have some confidence in the Lebanese people to resolve these differences among them. If foreign powers will stay out, if those who are a part of the process will not resort to intimidation or to violence, if people will find a way to bring about their differences -- to reconcile their differences peacefully, I have great confidence in the Lebanese Government and in the government of Prime Minister Siniora to overcome this crisis. And I think the response today of the international community suggests that the international community also has confidence in Lebanon.

QUESTION: Thank you, Dr. Rice, for granting us this exclusive interview.


QUESTION: Thank you very much.