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Rice Speaks on Israel-Hezbollah War

Aired August 6, 2006 - 08:58   ET


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go straight to Condoleezza Rice at the western White House in Crawford, Texas. This is an impromptu news conference. Let's take a listen.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: ... And then we'll see who is for peace and who isn't.

The world is really watching now to see. Everyone has been talking about a cease-fire -- immediate cease-fire. I think even Hezbollah has, from time to time, talked about an immediate cease- fire. This is a basis on which a cease-fire will take place -- a cessation of hostilities will take place so that there can't be a return to the status quo ante, which is extremely important to all of the parties because we don't want to create a situation in which we get out of this and then you create the conditions in which Hezbollah, a state within a state, goes across the line again, abducts soldiers and we get another war.

And so we will ask everyone who has any influence with all the parties to talk to them about the importance of taking this opportunity. I just want to note that these things take a while to wind down. It is certainly not the case that probably all violence is going to stop, but the kind of large-scale violence that is really so hard on the Lebanese and Israeli people, the rocketing into Israel, the major offensive military operations, it's important to get those stopped. But it's the first step. We've then got to get to the second resolution and the formation of an international force that can help the Lebanese government extend its authority throughout the country.

So this is a first step.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on (OFF-MIKE) the morning talk shows. How it could possibly be that the Lebanese government didn't know that thousands and thousands of rockets came into their territory? If you give the indication that they were oblivious to this...

RICE: No. I said that they did not know about the attack across the blue line for the abduction of Israeli soldiers. They have said that and I believe them on that. The military wing of Hezbollah did this apparently without any authorization of the Lebanese government, which had an obligation to respect the blue line. The real situation in Lebanon is that the south has had a vacuum in which Hezbollah has been operating. And the solution to this over the next several months is going to be to flow the authority of the Lebanese government and Lebanese forces with the help of international forces into the South so that you don't have that vacuum. Steve?

I would hope that you would see very early on an end to the kind of large-scale violence, large-scale military operations, firing of rockets that we've been seeing. That needs to stop so that the situation can clear for the next phase in the bringing in of international forces to help. But I can't say that you should rule out that there could be skirmishes of some kind for some time to come. This isn't meant to be a permanent condition, it's meant to create conditions on which a more permanent enduring cease-fire can be built.

QUESTION: The prime minister said that the U.N. resolution as the draft is inadequate. They're looking for Israeli troops to withdraw from Lebanese territory immediately. Have you spoken with him and what is the administration willing to offer in the first resolution? Are you willing to make some changes in that, to include that in that resolution?

RICE: Well, again, we need to keep this in place. Yes I've spoken to Prime Minister Siniora a couple of times, as a matter of fact, yesterday. I'm also speaking with the Israelis as are others. The United States has been very much with France in the lead on this, but there are a number of countries that are talking to all the parties. The way to think about this is that you need to have in effect, forces stop in place so that you don't have the large-scale military operations that really are so devastating to the country and so devastating to the people. There will have to be a phase of the flowing of Lebanese security forces into the south. Everybody wants to have that happen as quickly as possible, but they need international assistance to do it.

No one wants to see Israel permanently in Lebanon. Nobody wants that. The Israelis don't want it, the Lebanese don't want it. And so I think there is a basis here for moving forward. We are not in a position to stop after the first resolution. People are absolutely right about that. That would not be a stable equilibrium. So we need to get the first resolution, get the large-scale violence stopped, get the Lebanese forces ready to flow in, get security -- international forces to help them and do that, really rather quickly. So I want to emphasize this is the first step, not the only step. Yes?

QUESTION: Can you tell us about what the president had to say about this and what interactions you've had with him since you've been back?

RICE: Well I've been, obviously, before we left Washington, in constant contact with the president. Came back from the meetings that I've had in the Middle East and came directly to talk to him. Obviously, yesterday we've been in a fairly intensive conversation about this as we've been moving forward toward the resolution. But his view is very strong on this and it's not unlike what he stated at the very beginning of this crisis when we were in, I think Germany, when this really started. But this is really now an opportunity to extend the authority of the Lebanese government throughout its own territory. That really has to be the goal. Everybody's focused on the international forces, but the international forces are there to assist in the important work of getting the Lebanese to fill the vacuum that has developed in the south. That's in large part why you have a kind of state within a state operating there.

The Lebanese have also been very clear, Prime Minister Siniora, for instance when he was in Rome, that the Lebanese understand their responsibilities under the Taif Accords, which were signed in 1989 and under resolution 1559 which says that there should be no armed groups outside the authority of the Lebanese government. The very fact that that Taif Accord was signed in 1989, lets you know how longstanding this problem is in Lebanon, and it goes well back before that. It took some almost 10 years to get to the Taif Accords.

So, you have to understand that we're trying to deal with a problem that has been festering and brewing in Lebanon now for years and years and years. And so, it's not going to be solved by one resolution in the Security Council. This is one step to stop the large-scale violence so that we can begin to then address these underlying problems. But what this resolution has in it that would not have been there if we had done this a couple of weeks ago, is a kind of political basis for creating those conditions in which the parties -- in which Lebanon can flow its authority south.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about any work that's getting done on the second resolution?

RICE: I would obviously, always hope for a unanimous vote. All that I know is that both the French permanent representative (INAUDIBLE) and John Bolton, our permanent representative, represented the conversations in the Security Council yesterday as positive. We will see -- there will be further discussions today. I would urge, and I think we are urging all states of the Security Council now to back this resolution as a first step toward not just an end to the crisis, but as a first step toward moving to a more stable set of solutions. So that's the mood in the Council has been very good and I think you will see support for the resolution. Yes?

Oh, the second resolution? This resolution anticipates a second resolution. I think work will begin on that very, very quickly. People have obviously ideas and have been talking about it, there has been some work done, but it's not been done in a setting with the United States and other parties. Yes?

QUESTION: Hezbollah has indicated that it will not cease its attacks until every last Israeli soldier is out of Lebanon, (INAUDIBLE). Is that a necessary, in your mind, first step to ending the immediate violence for complete Israeli withdrawal?

RICE: The resolution does not anticipate and does not expect a complete Israeli withdrawal in the first phase, no. Because this is a resolution that ceases hostilities with forces in place, but requires that the major military operations, offensive military operations, the firing of rockets, the kind of violence that really is so hard on civilian populations, that that's got to stop. Now, I know Hezbollah has said all kinds of things. I've heard we should have an immediate cease-fire, I've heard we'll keep fighting. I've heard all of those things. What we need to focus on is when this Security Council resolution has passed, we're going to know who really did want to stop violence and who didn't. We've had an awful lot of calls over the last couple of weeks for an immediate cessation of hostilities, an immediate cessation of hostilities. The United States has been very clear that we did have to have some political basis to make clear that that cessation of hostilities was not going to countenance a return to the status quo ante. This resolution does that and now we're going to see who's for peace and who isn't. Kim?

QUESTION: Who should rebuild Lebanon after the violence ceases? Is it the U.S.' role?

RICE: Well the U.S. will certainly play a role in the rebuilding of Lebanon. We have committed to that. The Rome declaration commits to an international effort to rebuild Lebanon, not just a U.S. effort, not just a French effort. A complete international effort. And let's remember too, that the Saudis have already made known that they're going to make a very large donation to the rebuilding of Lebanon. So I think the rebuilding of Lebanon will be well underway when the violence stops and when the political constituents are there. Yes?

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, two questions. The first, a couple of weeks ago when there were calls for an immediate cessation of violence, you said you wanted to provide a permanent solution. Why shouldn't we see this two-stage solution as precisely what you were arguing against then. And second, how is it that you came up with an agreement that didn't have fundamentals that the Lebanese wanted like an immediate cessation of violence, a withdrawal of the Israeli troops and a return of displaced civilians?

RICE: Well there's a very simple answer to the second. There are things the Israelis wanted and things the Lebanese wanted. Not everybody was going to get everything that they wanted. This is the international community's effort to bring about an equitable, reasonable basis for a cessation of hostilities of the kind that are so devastating to civilian populations. And so I would expect that there is going to be a lot of discussion on how to move forward, but I would hope that the parties are all going to take the opportunity before them to stop the kind of terrible violence that we've been seeing against Israeli populations, against Lebanese populations.

On the first point, we do insist that there is -- that when there is a cease-fire that it's going to have to be on an enduring basis, which is why bringing forces in to support Lebanon's flow of its own forces to the south and to support conditions where there can't be a return to the status quo ante, is so important. But what we wanted to do was to not have an unconditional cease-fire with no political principles, no view of what the south is going to look like when this is finally resolved. It took some time, the G-8 statement was a first step. It then took some time going out to the region, talking to the Lebanese, talking to the Israelis.

Let me remind that at the Rome conference, Prime Minister Siniora did a lot of work in his Council of Ministers to get backing, including of the two Hezbollah ministers in his cabinet of a set of principles that could move this forward. Now, Lebanon isn't going to have all of the principles there or the full principles there that they would like. Israel I'm sure is not going to have all of them there that they would like. But this is a first step. It's a good basis for ending large-scale violence. It's a good basis for creating conditions in which there can't be a return to the status quo ante. And it's a good basis for beginning to flow the authority of the Lebanese government into the south so that this can't happen again. Last question? Yeah.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, what role does China and Russia play in this latest negotiations?

RICE: Well, yes. Well, I know that there have been conversations with the Russians including conversations with the Russian leadership about this. And we have talked with the Russians as well as some others. So far we've gotten positive soundings from Russia, but I don't want to speak for them. This is an important meeting today to take account. Yesterday the meeting was simply to have Jean Marc (INAUDIBLE) and John Bolton go through the resolution with the other permanent representatives, let them know what was in it, the thinking behind each of those steps.

I'm sure that overnight, instructions were then passed to delegations. They then will have a discussion today. We will see where we are at the end of day, but the urgency now is on this basis which we and the French think is a very good basis in which we heard very favorable remarks about yesterday, to try to vote this resolution in the next day or day -- two days. And then to allow a stop to the large-scale violence so that we can move to the next step, which is starting to flow the authority of the Lebanese government and the Lebanese forces into its own territory. I'm sorry. Last question. Yeah?

QUESTION: Same region, different problem. Israel has arrested the speaker of the Palestinian parliament overnight. Was that a helpful step?

RICE: They -- you mean in the Palestinian territories? We've expressed concerns about what may be going in the Palestinian territories. Two, as you know, I went there and saw Abu Mazen. It would be a very good step if as they have been told to do by everybody in the region if the military wing of Hamas would release that abducted Israeli Soldier. That needs to be done. It's probably not surprising that this took place by the military wing of Hamas at the time that Abu Mazen was moving toward some understandings with the political -- the people who were elected from Hamas about how they might move toward quartet principles.

It's also perhaps not surprising that it took place at a time when there was anticipation that there might be a meeting between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas. You know, there is a method to what these terrorists and extremist groups are doing. They are trying to destroy the foundation for democratic and moderate states in Lebanon, in Iraq, in the Palestinian territories. That's what they're trying to do. And so, it's not surprising that people who have no future in a moderate and democratic Middle East would try to destroy it. So, that's really the way forward. We're continuing to work with both the Israelis and the Palestinians as well even as the situation in Lebanon unfolds.

I will go to New York when and if necessary. The -- my understanding is that we really believe that we can, as I said last week, we really now were within days. I think we said that when I came back from the Middle East. I think we are still within a couple of days and I would expect that there will be a meeting in New York very shortly, probably within the next couple of days. All right, thanks. Thank you very much.

NGUYEN: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaking this morning from the western White House as they call it in Crawford, Texas, where she's been meeting with President Bush. Basically, she was talking more in-depth about this draft resolution between the U.S. and France which is going to go to the full U.N. Security Council to try to end the violence in the Middle East. And basically how it's going to work is they're going to have this cessation of violence, which is not a complete cease-fire, but long enough to lay down the groundwork for a second resolution which will be a permanent resolution. And all of this, she says, the goal is to have the Lebanese government express and exert its authority into southern Lebanon, which is the Hezbollah stronghold. So we'll see how this plays out. She said we may have an answer, a final vote on this within the next couple of days.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: On the first resolution?


HARRIS: The next couple of days.


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