Rice Cites Successes in Stopping Nuclear Arms Development
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 8, 2004 National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice disputed news reports today that say U.S. diplomacy is failing in the effort to stop countries like Iran and North Korea from developing nuclear arms.
"We're having diplomatic successes, but these are very tough problems," Rice told moderator Tim Russert during an appearance on NBC News' "Meet the Press."
She said the United States is actively and aggressively involved in a diplomatic strategy to deal with the threats of nuclear weapons development in Iran and North Korea. Rice said President Bush put the problem on the agenda during his "Axis of Evil" State of the Union address.
"Our allies have really begun to respond," Rice noted. "For a long time, we were the only ones who seemed to think that Iran really did have an aggressive program to try and acquire nuclear weapons. We are now getting stronger (International Atomic Energy Agency) action against them."
Rice predicts a strong statement out of the agency in September that says Iran will either be isolated or it will submit to the will of the international community.
"As to North Korea, we have created the six-party framework in which all of North Korea's neighbors have said, 'You must give up your nuclear weapons programs in order to be a part of the international community,'" Rice said. "And that includes China, which has long been North Korea's only benefactor."
She emphasized that these are tough problems that developed in the 1990s. "We will use many means to try and disrupt these programs," Rice said, adding that the president will consider all the tools available to him.
As to the reported Iranian nuclear weapons development program, Rice pointed out that the Russians say they will not continue the country's civilian nuclear energy programs if the Iranians don't return the fuel for those programs to Russia.
"That's a very good step," Rice noted. She said the president succeeded at the G8 summit in getting a one-year moratorium on countries being able to get weapons-grade nuclear material under the cover of civilian nuclear programs.
President Bush hosted the 30th G8 Summit at Sea Island, Ga., in June. The United States assumed the presidency of the G8 from France at the beginning of the year.
The summit brings together the leaders of the world's major industrial democracies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The European Union and other invited countries also attend the G8 summit. Leaders meet to discuss a wide range of international economic, political and security issues.
"So we are having diplomatic successes, but these are very tough problems," Rice said. "They've been growing for a while, but countries that were cheating on their obligations were ignored for a long time."
She said the United States has "very tough nonproliferation and counterproliferation programs" for stemming the flow of weapons of mass destruction to rogue states around the world. For example, Rice said, the United States wrapped up the A.Q. Khan network. Khan headed a group of scientists in Pakistan that allegedly clandestinely sold or transferred military nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea. Officials also raised the question of a possible association with Osama bin Laden.
This, Rice said, "gives us a chance of getting a handle on these programs."
Rice told Russert the international community can't afford to allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. Consequently, she said the international community has to find a way to come together to make certain that doesn't happen.
Turning to the war in Iraq, Russert asked whether the loss of life is justifiable since stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction have not been found.
"Every sacrifice of an American soldier is felt deeply by us all, because this is a great sacrifice for the men and women in uniform, for their families and for the American people," Rice responded. "But nothing of value is ever won without sacrifice. On Sept. 11, we were brutally attacked by people who had an ideology of hatred so great that they, with a few people, threatened to try and bring down our way of life."
She emphatically stated that the primary reason for going to war against Iraq was that Saddam Hussein was a threat. "He represented a regime against which we had gone to war in 1991 and again in 1998 because we were concerned about his having thrown out weapons inspectors and that he was continuing his weapons-of-mass-destruction programs," Rice said.
"He was an avowed enemy of the United States who had attacked his neighbors, who had used weapons of mass destruction," she noted. "He was tying down our forces in Saudi Arabia. He was a threat to change in the Middle East, which is at the core of how we change the security environment in which terrorism is taking place. And he was a friend of terrorists."
Rice pointed out that intelligence services around the world, the Clinton and Bush administrations and the United Nations inspectors knew that Saddam's regime had the knowledge, capability and the intent to make weapons of mass destruction.
"He had used them before, refused to disclose them, was, of course, continuing to defy the international community," she noted. "Sooner or later, the international community had to mean what it said about Saddam Hussein. When it said that it could no longer tolerate his defiance and he had one last chance to disarm or be disarmed, he chose defiance."
Rice said the president fulfilled the obligation that he had given to the international community when he went to the United Nations in September 2002 and said, "If he will not comply with his obligations, then he has to go."
Russert told Rice that "many people were scared out of their wits on Monday, cynical on Tuesday and befuddled by Wednesday" after the terror alert was raised to orange for sites in New York, Washington and New Jersey.
"The government has a duty to warn when we find information that is more specific than the sort of general warnings that have been out there," Rice explained. "The president's made that commitment. (Homeland Security Secretary) Tom Ridge has made that commitment. All of us have. And starting on a week ago Friday and going through the weekend, we began to get important intelligence from some of the people that were being rounded up in these raids in Pakistan.
"Some raids produced physical evidence, all in the context of a pre-election threat that we had talked about before," she continued. "And so, while it was not imminent, it did give a time frame that suggested some urgency."
Among other things, officials found casing reports on several financial targets in New York City and Washington, D.C., Rice said. "The decision was made that you had no choice but to warn people that their buildings had been cased."
Acknowledging that some of the reports came from 2000 and 2001, Rice said, "Perhaps some of them had been updated. But whether they had or not, we know that al Qaeda meticulously plans over a number of years. The casings for the East Africa Embassy bombings which were done in 1998 had been done five years before."
Based on information from people picked up in raids and knowing about terrorists who were thought to be plotting against the United States made it imperative that the nation be warned, Rice said.
"The good thing is that we don't have a situation like we had before 9/11, where the information was not being shared," she noted. "This was in some way textbook for the sharing of information that was coming in from the field, coming in from liaison with Pakistan."