Friday, March 17, 2006

Secretary of State Rice: Iran Talks Would Not Be "Negotiations"

U.S. Department of State:
Following is the State Department transcript of remarks by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Prime Minister John Howard of Australia March 17:

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesman
(Sydney, Australia)
March 17, 2006


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
And Australian Prime Minister John Howard

March 17, 2006
Sydney, Australia

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD: Ladies and gentlemen, the Secretary of State has just completed along with her colleagues a meeting with the National Security Committee of Cabinet and prior to that I've had an extensive discussion with her and she dined with myself and National Security Committee ministers last night and earlier yesterday had lengthy discussions with Mr. Downer.

In welcoming the Secretary of State to Australia, can I say that there is no country with whom Australia has a closer security relationship, a historic commitment to freedom. Our sharing the burdens of the battlefield in so many conflicts, beginning with World War I, is well known. And the goals and the values of the United States and Australia are close. The relationship between our two societies is intimate and the partnership between the United States Administration and the Australian Government in fighting terrorism and in the defense of liberty and the expansion of democracy around the world is both strong, unconditional and consistent. And it's in that sense that I welcome the Secretary of State to Australia and say how much we've enjoyed having her and how valuable have been the discussions that we have had over the whole gamut of national security and international affairs.

And I'd like to invite the Secretary of State to say a few words and then we'll take a couple of questions from each press party.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much, Prime Minister. I have very much enjoyed our discussions thus far. I'm looking forward to going on to Melbourne to the Commonwealth Games.

This relationship with Australia and the United States is one of the deepest values and the deepest friendship, and I want to thank you for the steadfastness of Australia in the war on terrorism. Indeed, I know, Prime Minister, that you were in Washington when September 11th -- the September 11th attacks took place and returned here to mobilize Australia on behalf of all of us who needed to fight in the war on terror. Of course, Australia has felt the sting of terrorism as well, losing many Australians in the Bali bombing.

But I said yesterday at the university that it is always good to have friends, but it is especially good to have steadfast friends when you have difficult fights ahead. And as we continue to fight the war on terrorism, as we continue to try and supplant that ideology of hatred that has produced terrorism with the hope of democracy and liberty for people around the world, it is wonderful to have a steadfast friend like Australia.

Thank you very much and thank you for having me here.

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD: A question from the American media.


QUESTION: Iran is willing to open talks with the U.S. over stabilizing Iraq. Is there a timeline for such talks and do you think these talks could be expanded to include Iran's nuclear program? And also, the U.S. launched a major offensive in Iraq today. What do you think this offensive will achieve and why are making a push at this time?

And then for Mr. --



QUESTION: Do you think that the talks between Iran and the United States should be expanded to include the nuclear program? And maybe you could also comment on this major military push in Iraq.

SECRETARY RICE: All right, let me start with question one, Sue, which was about the Larijani comments yesterday. Zal Khalilzad, as our Ambassador to Iraq, has had for some time guidance which allows him the discretion to meet with his Iranian counterpart if he believes that it would be useful to do so. We understand that much as in Afghanistan, these talks might be useful. But they -- and I should say, Zal had that same discretion in Afghanistan, as does now his counterpart -- or his successor, Ron Neumann, in Afghanistan.

But those talks are limited to questions concerning the country at issue, so in this case it would be limited to questions concerning Iraq. We will see when and if those talks take place, but that discretion has been there for Zal Khalilzad for some time and I'm sure that we'll talk about his exercise of it.

This isn't a negotiation of some kind. We've found it useful to exchange information and to talk, and if we do, it will be about Iraq.

The Iranians have but one thing to do on their nuclear program and that is to see to the just demands of the international community that Iran pursue its civil nuclear power program in a way that is consistent with its NPT obligations, that is consistent with the world's concerns about Iran's history of lying to the IAEA. It is now before the Security Council. That's the appropriate venue for it. And I think that that's the place that issue needs to be resolved. READ MORE

As to the offensive that took place last night, you've seen the reporting on it. And as you know, when there is reason to believe that such military force can be used on the basis of either intelligence or on the basis of concerns about a particular insurgent stronghold, then the military does that. And they have launched this offensive in Samarra.

I would call attention to the role that Iraqi security forces have played in this offensive, which it seems to me demonstrates that Iraqi forces are indeed taking on more of the security fight. I'm sure that over the next few days as the offensive continues and then winds down that we will learn more about what was going on in Samarra, but obviously Samarra has been -- there have been concerns about Samarra as a stronghold of the insurgents for some time.

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD: The only thing I'd like to add to what the Secretary of State has said is how encouraging we in Australia find the enhanced capacity and role of the Iraqi security forces. Clearly, a growing capacity by the Iraqis to look to their own security, provide their own security, is pivotal to how long coalition forces remain in Iraq. And any evidence that they are coming up to the crease and doing more and carrying more of the burden, the better.

Mr. Parker.

QUESTION: Prime Minister, may I ask you, in view of the material put before the Cole commission yesterday, is it still the government's position that (inaudible) scandals?

And while we're in the business of multiple questions, could I ask Secretary Rice about the dialogue tomorrow? With Japan being the third party in this, given the current state of Sino-Japanese relations, what do you think can, if anything, be done to ease that situation?

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD: Well, Jeffrey, let me say that I don't retract anything that I've previously said in relation to the AWB inquiry and the subject matter. I reject, of course, the absurd allegations of lying made Mr. Rudd and I invite people to wait until the commission has brought down its findings. This government has been utterly transparent. We established the commission and I think that was the right thing to do and I continue to think that and I think everybody should hold their breath and wait until the commission has brought down its findings.

SECRETARY RICE: As to the trilateral discussions tomorrow, let me just say first that while it is true that the United States, Japan and Australia will discuss this fast-growing and dynamic region and obviously a rising China is a part of that, we want conditions in which China's rise is a positive force for the region. We have good relations with China and we have encouraged good relations between Japan and China.

I might note that despite some of the difficulties that exist in that relationship they do have an extensive economic relationship, a trade relationship, and so they -- we are together in APEC as members of the Pacific rim nations. And so there is a lot to work with in the Japan-China relationship and we've encouraged that relationship to get better and better.

I want to note too that while we are going to discuss the Pacific, we and Australia and Japan have a lot of other interests in common as well that can be discussed in this trilateral format. For instance, we have been active together in Iraq and so it is a natural course to discuss the situation in Iraq and I'm sure that that will be a source of conversation tomorrow when we meet in the trilateral arrangement.

We have, of course, enjoyed Australia's backing for what all of us are trying to do in the six-party talks concerning North Korea. We, Japan and Australia are actively engaged in nonproliferation activities like the Proliferation Security Initiative. So while it is important for us to discuss the Pacific and, of course, to discuss the dynamic changes in this region, including China, I think it would be wrong to leave the impression that that is the only thing on the agenda when Japan, the United States and Australia get together because we share values, we share a lot of responsibilities not just regionally but also globally.

Anne Gearan, AP.

QUESTION: I'll defer to Satoshi Ukai.

SECRETARY RICE: Okay. You're going to defer to the -- okay, fine.

QUESTION: One more question about China. You have mentioned that U.S., Australia and Japan can work together to make the environment (inaudible) China a responsible stakeholder. However, (inaudible) these three countries in China is quite different (inaudible). How are you (inaudible) these three countries (inaudible) China and how is the (inaudible) between China and Japan affecting your policies?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, as I said, we have encouraged good relations between China and Japan, and even though there are difficulties in that relationship, China and Japan also share a lot of interests and indeed a lot of trade and commerce and a lot of economic relations. And so I think there's a very good basis for good relations between China and Japan.

We all want the same things for this region. Australia does, the United States does, Japan does. We want a region that is at peace. We want a region in which free trade in a rules-based international economy is going forward. That leads to greater prosperity for our people at home as well as for people in the region more generally. We want a region in which the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is not a problem. We need to be able to deal, for instance, with the problems of a state like North Korea which is clearly outside now its obligations in the NPT.

We want a region in which China, which is going to be -- is influential and is going to be more influential over the next several years, is more open in its domestic politics and more open in its face to the world. We have all been supporters of Chinese accession to the World Trade Organization and, of course, we want to encourage Chinese behavior that is consistent with that WTO -- those WTO obligations within the trade -- international trading system.

So we want the same things and I think we will have every reason to believe that when we work together we help to create that kind of environment. But I just want to emphasize what I said before. The United States, Japan and Australia have a large agenda together. It is an agenda that is about not just China but also about Southeast Asia. It is an agenda that joins us together in APEC and it is an agenda that is global. We're together in Iraq. We've worked together on Afghanistan. We are working together on nonproliferation issues. And so there is plenty to talk about when the foreign ministers of Japan and Australia get together with the Secretary of State of the United States.

QUESTION: Dr. Rice, I'd like to ask you what you make of the revelation that the Australian (inaudible) exporter paid a kickback to Saddam Hussein's regime.

And Prime Minister, I'd also like to ask you, did you discuss the question of India and the U.S. nuclear cooperation agreement with Dr. Rice, and what did you tell Dr. Rice about whether Australia would ever consider exporting uranium to India?

SECRETARY RICE: On the Volker Commission report, we've all followed the outcomes of that commission report and I have confidence that Australia, as a democratic state, is going to do everything that it can to investigate the allegations. I understand that there is a commission that is to do so and this is how democratic states handle situations like this; they investigate the allegations. And I'm sure they'll be thoroughly investigated.

PRIME MINISTER HOWARD: Cynthia, in relation to India, we did discuss it and I indicated to the Secretary of State a number of things. I said that we were pleased about the American-Indian agreement because it would bring for the first time India's nuclear -- civilian nuclear capacity under international inspections. I said that we had a longstanding policy in relation to only selling to countries that abided by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty; however, we would send in the next little while a team of officials to India to get some more information regarding that agreement and that group would go on to the United States.

I mean, obviously the aggregate impact of the agreement between the United States and India and the impact that has on potential proliferation, and bear in mind that India has had a good record in the 30 years or more since she exploded a nuclear device in 1974, has had a very good record in relation to nonproliferation.

But there isn't going to be any immediate change in government policy. Obviously, like all policies, you never say never. But obviously, we have a policy and we're not going to automatically change it because of the agreement between the United States and India or despite the fact, of course, that India has expressed, as you all know, a great interest in purchasing Australian uranium.

Okay, thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much.

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: