Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Assistant Secretary of State David Welsh's interview With ABU DHABI TV November 22,2006

US Department of State
C. David Welch, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs
Interview With ABU DHABI TV
Washington, DC
November 22, 2006

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Mr. Welch, for having us here, and let's get
to
the point. How do you see the impact of the assassination of Gemayel on the
situation -- the political situation in Lebanon, and the Middle East?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, the situation in Lebanon was already
difficult and tense and, of course, this very unfortunate crime -- yet
another
crime committed by those who seek to disturb Lebanon's security and
stability
-- only adds, I think, to the challenges facing the Lebanese people.

We have confidence in the people of Lebanon, the leadership of Lebanon, but,
I
must say, it is depressing that those who don't share the same positive
vision
for Lebanon's future still commit such acts.

QUESTION: Well, the recent statement, spearheaded by President Bush and John
Bolton, the UN ambassador, was so quick in raising accusation fingers
towards
Syria. What basis have you placed for your accusations?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Read our statements very carefully. We're really
quite concerned about the continued interference of Syria and Iran in the
affairs of Lebanon. Lebanon's gone through far too much in its recent
history
to have to endure this again.

Mr. Pierre Gemayel, God rest his soul, was a member of the cabinet, an
elected
member of parliament, and the son of one of Lebanon's most important
families.
This is a triple strike at the foundations of Lebanese democracy and it can
only be done by those who don't see the same kind of positive democratic
future
for Lebanon that its people do.

QUESTION: By what would Syria do such a thing, and this timing?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Look, we're not directly accusing anyone. There's
an investigation underway by the Lebanese authorities. It is conceivable
that
in the future this might be expanded to include some international
participation because the record of these crimes is now becoming very
apparent
for everyone. Many of the most recent attempts have been against people
whose
backgrounds and views are very clear in terms of who they consider to be the
problems for Lebanon.

QUESTION: But Mr. Bush was pinpointed to, in his statement, to Syria and
Iran.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, we don't see anyone else who is interfering
in the internal affairs of Lebanon other than Syria and Iran.

QUESTION: Syria completely denied any involvement and said it could be the
enemies of Syria who choose this time to do this assassination.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: I would expect such denials.

QUESTION: Okay, how do you see the relationship and the timing? We were
about
to see a sort of Syrian cooperation in the fight of Iraq, restoring
diplomatic
relationships for the first time in 20-odd years, talking about a Syrian,
Iranian, Iraqi summit in Tehran. What's -- how do you see the link between
the
timing of the assassination and this kind of Syrian movements?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, I think this shows that, in some sense,
there
is a responsibility or involvement of Syria in all these files. We have long
asked the Syrian government to play a responsive role in each of these
areas:
in Lebanon, in Iraq and in the Palestinian issue.

I don't know yet how to measure their recent diplomatic moves vis-à-vis
Iraq,
but I see -- my first instinct is to note that this is a way for the Syrian
government to address their real responsibility, which has been,
unfortunately,
to allow a flow of terrorists into western Iraq through Syria;
unfortunately,
not to be supportive of the new government in Baghdad. I understand they had
historic differences with the government of Saddam Hussein. So did many, but
the lack of any effort to recognize the government until very recently shows
where their hearts may really lie. We'll have to see whether this is any
substantial change in their behavior.

QUESTION: But, would you say that this move at this time -- Syrian move
towards
Iraq -- is a positive move?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: I'll let the Iraq government and the Iraqi people
be the judge of whether it's positive for their interests or not. In terms
of
what we see, we ask -- we ask of them and we expect of them -- that is,
Syria
-- that they should behave more responsibly inside Iraq. We'll measure
whether
that's the case or not.

QUESTION: Back to Lebanon. The Security Council yesterday has approved the
draft for an international tribunal. Now, the reaction from the Lebanese
president and some factions in Lebanon -- Hezbollah -- was very negative and
they said they are not welcoming this move. Not only that, it's that the
Lebanese President Lahoud said the government, Syria's government, is not
authorized, is not legal enough after the withdrawal of six ministers to
approve such a tribunal. What's your reaction?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: The Lebanese government is founded according to
the
Lebanese constitution and law. It enjoys legitimacy. The same cannot be said
of
the person who occupies the presidential office at Baabda right now. The
views
of the so-called president of Lebanon with respect to this are, in my
judgment,
not relevant.

The Council has approved the agreement negotiated between the UN and Lebanon
and, please, notice that it was negotiated by Lebanon. This is a supportive
act, to protect the security and laws of Lebanon. It is not designed to
interfere in Lebanese sovereignty. Quite the contrary; it's to help protect
it.

Because the crimes involved here are of such a magnitude, such international
support is not surprising and has been welcomed by many Lebanese. We expect
to
see it proceed through the cabinet and the parliament according to Lebanese
law
and rules, and then it will be sent back to the Council for further action.

If the investigation requires it - that is, if it requires a prosecution and
a
tribunal - this is available for them to use.

QUESTION: But do you see the Lebanese government, at this time, has the
authority to approve such -

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Certainly, it does.

QUESTION: Even after the Hezbollah's --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: That's correct, absolutely. The government is
still
legally constituted, as is the parliament for that matter, and this will
proceed according to Lebanese law and procedure.

QUESTION: Even without the approval of the president, the Lebanese President
Lahoud?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: If the Lebanese President chooses not to approve
it, and I
hope that he doesn't take that step, then there are other measures according
to
Lebanese law that can be followed to see this brought into force.

QUESTION: Syria has -- Fayssal Mekdad, Deputy Foreign Minister, yesterday
said
Syria will not allow any Syrian citizen to be tried in such an international
tribunal. How do you react?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: I don't know what he's so worried about if
Syria's
not involved in the matter. If Syria had no role in these crimes, then it
should not be worried.

QUESTION: And if it comes to the stage where some Syrian officials are
called
for this tribunal and the Syrian government will refuse, what's the next
step
you have?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, then I can assure you they will have a big
problem.

QUESTION: What sort of problem? Can you elaborate on that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, you'd have to ask them. They say they're
not
involved. I would say to that, then why are they worried?

QUESTION: And my last question is about the Iranian government and the
latest
developments in Lebanon and in the area.

Iran has described this assassination as a terrorist attack and something
held
by enemies. How do you respond to the Iranian denial of this assassination?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, the Iranian government is free to make its
own statements about these issues and I don't have any observations on the
content of their statement. We consider it an act of terrorism. It's a shame
that this thing happened, and Lebanese people do not deserve this. It's a
very
delicate and tense situation and we call upon all those who have any kind of
positive feeling toward Lebanon to stay out of their business and let things
move forward in that country.

QUESTION: One final question: There were a lot of talks about a new strategy
with Iran and Syria in the coming phase, starting opening a dialogue. How do
you see the chances of opening a dialogue in these circumstances?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Well, this is a complicated question. There's
been
a lot of press speculation about it, of course. In the case of Syria, you
know
we have an embassy in Damascus, and the issue is not the conversation; it's
cooperation. We can talk to them easily, but it seems to be very difficult
to
build a basis for cooperation.

With respect to Iran, it's quite different. We don't have diplomatic
relations
with Iran, though there are some channels that we have to the Iranian
government that traditionally we've used on matters of concern in the past.

Again, what we're asking here is very straightforward. We think that the
neighbors of Iraq should contribute to security stability inside that
country.
That includes Iran. With respect to its nuclear program, the United States
is
willing to talk to Iran about its nuclear program, but we ask it to first
suspend its dangerous nuclear activities.

These matters have been on the table for some time. It's not an
unwillingness
to speak; it's an unwillingness on their part to tackle the main issues that
are on the table.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WELCH: Thank you.

Released on November 29, 2006

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

President Bush speaks on the assassination of Minister Pierre Gemayel

 
The White House, President George W. Bush

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 21, 2006

President George W. Bush

Hickam Air Force Base
Honolulu, Hawaii

EXCERPTS

"...Today we saw again the vicious face of those who oppose freedom. We strongly condemn the assassination today in Lebanon of Pierre Gemayel, who was a minister in the government of Prime Minister Siniora. We support the Siniora government and its democracy, and we support the Lebanese people's desire to live in peace. And we support their efforts to defend their democracy against attempts by Syria, Iran and allies, to foment instability and violence in that important country.

I call for a full investigation of the murder to identify those people and those forces behind the killing. We call on the international community to support Prime Minister Siniora's government. And one clear way to do so is for the United Nations Security Council to take all remaining steps needed to establish a special tribunal concerning the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri, and to assure that those behind that killing and others that followed are brought to justice. I strongly believe the United Nations Security Council ought to act today. For the sake of peace, the free world must reject those who undermine young democracies and murder in the name of their hateful ideology..."

 

Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs condemns assassination of Minister Pierre Gemayel

US Department of State
Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs                
                                                           
Washington, DC                                                                
November 21, 2006   
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS:
We just heard the news just about a half hour ago of the assassination of Pierre Gemayel in Lebanon. Obviously this is a very sad day for Lebanon. We were shocked by this assassination. We view it as an act of terrorism. We also view it as an act of intimidation against the March 14th Coalition. And we believe it's the responsibility of all countries to support the Siniora government and to oppose those who would try to divide Lebanon or return violence to political life in Lebanon. The Gemayel family has played a very important role in the history of Lebanon. They have suffered too much tragedy as a family and our condolences go to the Gemayel family.                                                                       
                                                                             
We think it's very, very important that those who would divide Lebanon, who would use violence to destabilize the political situation, not be able to succeed. And we will give full support to the Siniora government in the days and weeks ahead to support that government, to support its continuation because it's been duly elected by the people of Lebanon, to support what it needs to do to reconstruct the country.                                                   
                                                                             
QUESTION: Does this cast any doubt on the ability to construct a carefully balanced government in Lebanon, which you're calling a democracy? We have had 
our own assassinations and we're a democracy, but does this say something about the abilities of the various Lebanese people to pull together for the good of 
the country?                                                                  
                                                                             
UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Well, it's unfortunately all too -- part of an all too often pattern of violence and assassination in Lebanon's recent political     
history over the last 30 to 40 years. We support the Government of Lebanon. We support Prime Minister Siniora. We have felt for the last year and a half that
the March 14th Coalition represents what's right about Lebanon: politicians, political leaders who are dedicated to democracy, who wanted to return Lebanon
to a position of real sovereignty and free Lebanon from Syria's influence, and free Lebanon from the politics of violence and assassination. It's a very sad 
day to see someone -- a young leader like this, who was devoted to public service, to be gunned down. And so it does instill in us a belief that we have
to redouble our efforts and those of our friends in the Arab world as well as in Europe to support the Siniora government. We have seen statements from Mr. 
Nasrallah and others over the past few weeks that are meant, we believe, to destabilize Lebanon and to divide the country and we oppose those statements. And we call on all countries to support the unity and territorial integrity of Lebanon and to free Lebanon from these acts of political intimidation and terrorism. This was an act of terrorism today.               

Department of State Spokesman on the assassination of Minister Pierre Gemayel

US Department of State

Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
November 21, 2006

 

 

QUESTION: Do you see a Syrian hand in the Gemayel assassination?

MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, I think as you heard Under Secretary Burns say this morning, we certainly view this as an act of terrorism and an act of political intimidation in Lebanon. Certainly there hasn't been an investigation into who is responsible for this incident and I don't think it would be appropriate for me to try and do that work for people. But I think in light of the history that we've seen in Lebanon with the Hariri assassination and with other acts of political violence, it's certainly I think clear to us and clear to everyone else that this was not just some random criminal act.

Farah.

QUESTION: There's been increasing calls for the Bush Administration to engage Syria. Do you think that this will be a reason to wait and see the investigation before going forward with any type of change in policy?

MR. CASEY: Well, let's deal with what we've got. Certainly in terms of the Hariri assassination, as you know, there's ongoing discussions up in New York about establishing a tribunal to establish accountability for those responsible for that act of violence. We certainly want to see anyone responsible for this to be held accountable as well. In terms of broader implications for the U.S.-Syrian relationship, I just don't think I'm prepared at this point to speculate whether this will have an effect one way or the other.

QUESTION: A follow-up.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: I wonder if President Bush believe that Syrian or Syria embedded its intelligence inside the Lebanese Government. Don't you be worried about any Syrian role on this violence in Lebanon?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think we've made our general views clear about Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs. Certainly we wish to see Syria as well as all other actors comply with their obligations under a variety of UN resolutions, and that means to respect the sovereignty of the Lebanese Government and that means to refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of the country.

Elise.

QUESTION: Well, when you say it's an act of political intimidation, Ambassador Bolton said a few moments ago in an interview that he didn't think it was a coincidence that all the members of the Lebanese Government that are being assassinated are anti-Syrian forces or anti-Syrian politicians or journalists, so what is the opinion of the State Department? Do you think that these long list of acts of intimidation against members of the Lebanese Government and anti-Syrian forces are at Syria's behest or are from anti -- or from pro-Syrian forces in Lebanon?

MR. CASEY: Look, again, I don't want to speculate on where an investigation might go in this and certainly I'm not trying to lead you to the idea that we have specific conclusions about who specifically was responsible. But as you heard Nick say this morning, we definitely view this as an act of intimidation not generically against Lebanon, but generically against Lebanon and specifically against the March 14th Coalition. So clearly there are those who have spoken out for independence in Lebanon, who have spoken out in favor of a Lebanon free from outside interference from Syria or anyone else who appear to be those that have been intimidated and attacked over time. Certainly that's a disturbing pattern. Whether that leads to any conclusions in terms of who is responsible for this specific incident that's something I think we have to leave to Lebanon authorities to look at.

QUESTION: Just one more. This comes at a time as you know that the Lebanese Government is on the verge of collapse with Hezbollah making threats and asking its supporters to go out in the streets to destabilize the government, and you've said that you think that this tribunal investigating the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri would help the government. But, I mean, that's -- in the short term, what can the United States do, what is it doing to help prop up this government that's on the verge of collapse, beyond the tribunal?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all again, the important thing here is that the Lebanese people decide who is going to be running their country, who will be involved in this government. This isn't a choice for the United States to make. But there have been elections in Lebanon. Those elections have resulted in this government, led ably by Prime Minister Siniora, and we are supporting democratic process and this democratically elected government in Lebanon. And certainly if there's to be any adjustments to who participates in that government, who is in the cabinet, like in any other parliamentary system, that has to be done through a legitimate open political process, one of political negotiation among parties and among individuals, not as -- come about as a result of intimidation or come about as a result of terror tactics.

What are we doing in Lebanon? I think as you know, while certainly we are concerned about accountability in the case of the Hariri assassination, we were very actively working with the Siniora government to help it do what's most -- its most important job which is deliver on its promises and deliver on the needs of the Lebanese people and that includes helping with the reconstruction process, it includes helping with the implementation of Resolution 1701. It includes making sure that the government is able to fully exercise its sovereignty and it includes making sure that we do what we can to discourage others that are out there from interfering in Lebanon's internal affairs.

QUESTION: What is the impact of this event, do you think, on the Lebanese Government?

MR. CASEY: Barry, I think at this point, this has just happened. I'm really not in a position to speculate for you on what impact it might or might not have. Certainly, again, it's an act of terrorism. It's an act of intimidation. It is one that we want to see those responsible for this action held accountable for.

Yeah, David.

QUESTION: Has anyone from this building been in touch with Siniora today since the assassination?

MR. CASEY: I don't -- I'm not aware that anyone's been in touch with him, but I'll check for you and see whether any calls have been made. Certainly I know our Ambassador's been in touch. Jeff Feltman's been in touch with a number of officials in the Lebanese Government, but I'll try and get a more specific idea of who for you.

Farah.

QUESTION: About two weeks ago the White House released a statement, sort of a rare statement talking about how Syria was trying to bring about the collapse of a Lebanese Government. And are you prepared to say anything more about that statement or why -- what were the types of activities that were being conducted that --

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think that statement was pretty straightforward. I really don't have a lot to add to it in that regard. Certainly, over time we have talked about the long history both of Syrian occupation and domination of Lebanon. We've talked about the issues surrounding the Hariri assassination. We've talked about the issues surrounding continued intelligence operatives, intelligence presence by the Syrian Government in Lebanon. We talked about things like arbitrary closings of the border and other kinds of activities. This is all part of the public record and part of the longstanding history there.

I think it's clear that this isn't just the United States but the broader international community as has been reflected in UN resolutions that believe that Syria is certainly not playing the role of a good neighbor in Lebanon. It's certainly continuing to involve itself in the internal affairs of Lebanon, and that's something that we don't think is appropriate, and it's something the international community doesn't think is appropriate.

QUESTION: You had spoken, while not mentioning what those acts were or pieces of intelligence were, you spoke about specific pieces of information and intelligence which led you to believe that certain acts were going to occur to destabilize the government. Is the assassination one of those particular acts? Did you have any information that led you to believe that someone, specifically this gentleman or anybody in the Lebanese Government, was at threat?

MR. CASEY: Well, certainly even if I had specifics on intelligence information, I wouldn't be in a position to comment on it. I'm not aware that we had any specific information that would have been relevant to this case.

Let's go back here, and then let's go to Libby.

QUESTION: Yes, sir. When you are calling on certain countries to refrain from interfering in the Lebanese affair, do you include Israel into your call because there was certain spies and terrorists who were arrested a few months ago by the Lebanese Government and the investigation revealed their connection to Israel at that time.

Also I wondered, my second question is if you have had a chance to examine the statement by the Syrian Government concerning this event today? Since I came late, I don't know if you had a chance to discuss that yet.

MR. CASEY: First of all, I think in terms of the obligations of Lebanon's neighbors, I think the obligations are stated pretty clearly in UN Security Council resolutions and you can look them up in terms of who they apply to and under what conditions.

In terms of the Syrian Government's statement, no, I haven't seen it, but the -- I think the main principle for us continues to apply. We think it's very important that the Syrian Government follow through on the commitments that are required of it by the UN and by the international community. We think it's very important that Syria refrain from interfering in Lebanon's internal affairs. And as we've so often said, whether the case is Syria's relations with Lebanon or Syria's relations with Iraq, we see many fine statements coming out of the Syrian Government. What we often don't see is any action to back them up.

And again, what we continue to look for in the case of Syria's relations with Lebanon is that not just statements be made but that those statements be backed up with actions.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) if you would allow me to follow up?

MR. CASEY: Actually, I think we'll go on to other people and then we'll come back to you later.

Libby.

QUESTION: Ambassador Burns said that the U.S. was shocked by the assassination. Following up on Farah and Elise, how much shock was there when you had put out a statement a few weeks ago saying that, you know, there was evidence pointing to the toppling of the Lebanese Government?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think it's always shocking when you have an unwarranted act of terror, act of violence, particularly one perpetrated against a member, a senior member of a foreign government. But again, I think the critical thing here is that this clearly is, from our light, an act of terror and an act of intimidation against the Lebanese Government, something that we all should be concerned about and I think we'll be looking to talk with our friends and allies as well as with the Lebanese Government today and in the coming days to see what we can all do to try and end these kinds of acts.

QUESTION: Are you worried about more assassinations?

MR. CASEY: Again, I think we've seen a pattern of intimidation and a pattern of violence in Lebanon that is longstanding. It's the reason -- part of the reasons why we've had so many UN Security Council resolutions related to the situation there. It's an ongoing concern for us. And again, we want to make sure that everyone is doing what they can to prevent any kinds of acts of political intimidation or violence.

Let's go over to Elise.

QUESTION: I'm not sure if you saw President Lahoud's condemnation of the attack. Given the fact that the Secretary has made no secret of the fact that she believes that President Lahoud is part of the pro-Syrian movement rather than part of democratic forces in Lebanon, do you think that this was a sincere or disingenuous statement?

MR. CASEY: Well, I haven't seen his specific comments, so I'll refrain from making remarks directly related to it.

Look, our positions on these issues are all longstanding and well known. I think what this incident does is simply reminds us that there are some very serious ongoing concerns about political violence, about intimidation, particularly from outside forces in Lebanon itself. That is something that the UN and the international community and the United States have all taken a very strong stand on, and it's something that we need to work with and move forward with as we seek to help the Lebanese people and the Lebanese Government.

QUESTION: Has Syria -- has the U.S. DCM or anybody in the U.S. Embassy in Damascus reached out to talk to the Syrian Government about this?

MR. CASEY: Not that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: What about here in Washington?

MR. CASEY: Again, Barry, I'm sorry I haven't had a chance to check on the exact number or who has talked to who on this specific issue.

QUESTION: Well --

MR. CASEY: Again, I know that we have had conversations between our Embassy in Beirut and the Lebanese Government, but I just simply don't have a list for you of who else in this building has contacted officials here in Washington or elsewhere, but I'll try to get that for you.

QUESTION: The embassy vigorously denied any involvement in the Hariri assassination. And when American officials are going around saying such -- I don't know the perfect adjective for this -- but such dramatic statements as draw your own conclusions without saying what their conclusions are, you would think that you would solicit Syria's account of what happened if it has one.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) and represented here (inaudible)?

MR. CASEY: Barry -- no, actually, I'll let the Syrian Government make statements on the Syrian Government's behalf. You're free to go ask them.

QUESTION: But your reaction to the other statement.

MR. CASEY: That's okay. Again, I think you've heard what our position is on this issue. I think, again, Under Secretary Burns stated it pretty clearly this morning. I know Ambassador Bolton did up in New York as well. Again, Barry, I think what's important and who we want to hear from most on this issue is the Lebanese Government and the Lebanese officials that will be investigating this particular incident. But I don't think it's particularly unique or unusual for us to be saying that there is a pattern of political violence and political intimidation in Lebanon, and that's certainly -- this particular incident fits in with that pattern. That's why we very clearly view this as an act of terror and an act of intimidation against the legitimate political leaders in Lebanon.

Let's go over here.

QUESTION: When you talk about the pattern, I know you're not jumping to conclusions about an investigation, but when you speak of a pattern of political violence, are you speaking of a pattern of political violence that, you know, is believed to be traced back to Syria or are you -- I mean would you say that not related to this incident?

QUESTION: Are you telling us to connect the dots?

MR. CASEY: Look, I think I've stated it about as clearly as I can. I'm not trying to give you guys specific conclusions on this case. This is going to have to be investigated. It is going to have to be looked at. There are a lot of different factors involved in Lebanese politics right now. But there are also, as part of those factors, known aspects of outside interference in Lebanese affairs. Whether there are connections between them, how they might be connected, in what degree and to what level are all things that require an investigation to move forward.

Again, the one thing that is clear to us, though, is that this was an act of terrorism, and it is something that we see as an act of terrorism that is designed to intimidate the March 14th Coalition and the will of the Lebanese people more broadly. And I think that's about as much as I can give you guys.

Let's do Joel over here, and then we'll go back to you.

QUESTION: Yes, this pattern as you describe --

MR. CASEY: Or let's not. We'll go to you first and then we'll go to Joel.

QUESTION: Well, it's just --

MR. CASEY: No, that's okay. Go ahead, you started.
/

QUESTION: (Inaudible) a political leader after another and I'm afraid one day all will be taken, the Siniora cabinet. Don't you think there is an urgent need for an action to be taken for this not to happen again, and how, if there is thought that way?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think we're going to do everything we can to support the Siniora government, to support the legitimate elected leaders of Lebanon, and to work with the broader international community to make sure that foreign interference and the kinds of violent acts that we've seen today end and don't happen again.

But again, you have to take a look in this specific instance at the facts. There will be an investigation. And I think before we start drawing any broader conclusions from it, we just need to see what happens there.

Farah.

QUESTION: Just one more on Lebanon. Do you know if the Lebanese Government has sought or if you guys have offered any extra security assistance?

MR. CASEY: I'm not aware of any specific request, but certainly we'd look at any that came from the Lebanese Government with the desire to help them do whatever they'd need. I think they feel generally fairly comfortable that they have the resources available to do what they want. But again, if they give us a specific request, I'm sure we'll look at it.

QUESTION: What about on the investigation -- oh, sorry. What about on the investigation? Have you offered any U.S. forensic assistance or anything?

MR. CASEY: At this point, I'm not aware of any specific offer. But again, I think if they require any assistance from us, we'd certainly consider that request.

QUESTION: Do you know if we give any security assistance so far?

MR. CASEY: I'm not aware of any specific security assistance to -- by the U.S. to the Lebanese Government, not that I'm aware of.

 

President Bush's statement on Minister Pierre Gemayel's assassination

 

The White House, President George W. Bush

November 21, 2006

President's Statement on Assassination of Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel

Today's assassination of Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel shows yet again the viciousness of those who are trying to destabilize that country.

The United States remains fully committed to supporting Lebanon's independence and democracy in the face of attempts by Syria, Iran, and their allies within Lebanon to foment instability and violence. Syria's refusal to cease and desist from its continuing efforts to destabilize Lebanon's democratically elected government is a repeated violation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701. The United States will continue its efforts with allied nations and democratic forces in Lebanon to resist these efforts and protect Lebanon's sovereignty and democratic institutions.

We urge the U.N. Security Council and the Secretary-General today to take the remaining steps needed to establish the special tribunal for Lebanon that will try those accused of involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri, and to ensure that that tribunal can also bring to justice those responsible for related assassinations, assassination attempts, and other terrorist attacks. We also demand that Syria treat Lebanon as a genuinely sovereign neighbor, establishing full diplomatic relations with Lebanon, and delineating its border with that country, including, in particular, in the Shab'a Farms area, through a bilateral agreement.

Friday, November 10, 2006

State Department Spokesman on Lebanese National Dialogue

Department of State
Daily Press Briefing                                                          
Sean McCormack‚ Spokesman                                                     
Washington, DC                                                
November 9, 2006       
 
Excerpts                                                        
                                           
QUESTION: Mr. Nabih Berri, the Speaker of the House of Lebanon was exerting lots of efforts in order to prevent a political chaos is meeting with the     
different political groups in there. Can I have your reading of this, what your comment is about his efforts and the progress of these meetings?              
                                                                       
MR. MCCORMACK: About Nabih Berri's meetings?            
 
QUESTION: Yes, sir.                                                            
                                                            
MR. MCCORMACK: That's a foul, asking me to comment on internal domestic politics in Lebanon.                                                          
                                                                        
QUESTION: You see the real (inaudible) involved, I mean and --                
                                                                       
MR. MCCORMACK: Look there's a lot of ferment in the Lebanese political system. It comes about as a result of a lot of different things, one of which is they 
are emerging from 20 years of -- more than 20 years of Syrian occupation. So they're trying to deal with some pretty fundamental issues, a lot of them     
centering around how can you have a political party that has its own militia and that drags us into regional conflict. That's a pretty central issue that they're dealing with.                                                          
                                                                 
So look, we support efforts at political reform and economic reform and Prime Minister Siniora's government. There's a lot of discussions being had in      
Lebanon right now. But we -- how those turn out are for the Lebanese people to decide. Our problem is -- our problem as well as the problem of others arises 
when you have external forces, either directly or indirectly through proxies, trying to manipulate the outcome of those political discussions in a way that's
detrimental to Lebanese democracy, the growth of Lebanese democracy. That's when you get into a problem. So in terms of political bargaining, it's going to
be up to the Lebanese people and the Lebanese political leaders to decide.    
                                                                       
Thanks. 

                                                                    

State Department Spokesman on Lebanese National Dialogue

Department of State
Daily Press Briefing                                                          
Sean McCormack‚ Spokesman                                                     
Washington, DC                                                
November 9, 2006       
 
Excerpts                                                        
                                           
QUESTION: Mr. Nabih Berri, the Speaker of the House of Lebanon was exerting lots of efforts in order to prevent a political chaos is meeting with the     
different political groups in there. Can I have your reading of this, what your comment is about his efforts and the progress of these meetings?              
                                                                       
MR. MCCORMACK: About Nabih Berri's meetings?            
 
QUESTION: Yes, sir.                                                            
                                                            
MR. MCCORMACK: That's a foul, asking me to comment on internal domestic politics in Lebanon.                                                          
                                                                        
QUESTION: You see the real (inaudible) involved, I mean and --                
                                                                       
MR. MCCORMACK: Look there's a lot of ferment in the Lebanese political system. It comes about as a result of a lot of different things, one of which is they 
are emerging from 20 years of -- more than 20 years of Syrian occupation. So they're trying to deal with some pretty fundamental issues, a lot of them     
centering around how can you have a political party that has its own militia and that drags us into regional conflict. That's a pretty central issue that they're dealing with.                                                          
                                                                 
So look, we support efforts at political reform and economic reform and Prime Minister Siniora's government. There's a lot of discussions being had in      
Lebanon right now. But we -- how those turn out are for the Lebanese people to decide. Our problem is -- our problem as well as the problem of others arises 
when you have external forces, either directly or indirectly through proxies, trying to manipulate the outcome of those political discussions in a way that's
detrimental to Lebanese democracy, the growth of Lebanese democracy. That's when you get into a problem. So in terms of political bargaining, it's going to
be up to the Lebanese people and the Lebanese political leaders to decide.    
                                                                       
Thanks. 

                                                                    

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

White House Press Secretary on Lebanon

The White House, President George W. Bush

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 1, 2006

Press Briefing by Tony Snow
White House Conference Center Briefing Room

Excerpts:

Q Today you put out a pretty tough statement about the Siniora government, saying that Syria needs to watch it, essentially. How concerned are you that there is an effort to topple the Sinioran government, the democracy there?

MR. SNOW: We think it's important -- let me put it this way -- we are committed to the success and the stability of the Siniora government and we want to make it clear to everybody in the region that that's a priority. The President talks often about the importance of a young democracy in the region -- young democracies. Lebanon is clearly one, Iraq is another that we're absolutely committed to, because we understand, again, the power of an example is something that everybody in that region is looking for. And if you have the example of a stable democracy that's able to fend off terror -- in the case of Lebanon, from Hezbollah -- then you have an opportunity to create an entirely different set of circumstances in the Middle East, all of which are going to be good for us.

Q We're interested in the good parts of democracy, but why did you put out the statement? Are you concerned there have been reports about arms smuggling and whatnot?

MR. SNOW: Well, let me just say --

Q Are you concerned about it being toppled?

MR. SNOW: No, we're just -- we're making it clear to everybody in the region that we think that it ought to be hands off the Siniora government. Let them go about and do their business.

Q Hezbollah leader said that there are some U.N.-mediated talks underway possibly to free the two Israeli soldiers. Is the U.S. involved in this at all?

MR. SNOW: Not that I'm aware of, but I don't know.

Q I want to take you back to your Lebanon statement here. You said that there was mounting evidence that the Syrian and Iranian governments and Hezbollah and their allies are trying to topple the government. But the rest of the statement doesn't describe what that evidence is. The only thing it goes on to describe is an effort to stop formal approval of the statute on the international tribunal, which is quite different than toppling a government.

MR. SNOW: That is correct. And, David, as somebody who at least I think spends a fair amount of time talking to people who handle classified information, you will understand why we do not necessarily go into greater detail about those. It serves a diplomatic purpose, and an important one.

Q I can understand that, but at the same time, you're making a fairly serious charge that two governments are seeking to overturn the government of a neighbor. And it would seem to me that that would require at least some characterization of the evidence in declassified form. Could you tell us any more about it?

MR. SNOW: No, but thanks for the advice. We'll pass it on.


White House Calls for Support for Sovereign Lebanon

 
The White House, President George W. Bush

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 1, 2006

White House Calls for Support for Sovereign Lebanon

Support for a sovereign, democratic, and prosperous Lebanon is a key element of U.S. policy in the Middle East. We are therefore increasingly concerned by mounting evidence that the Syrian and Iranian governments, Hizballah, and their Lebanese allies are preparing plans to topple Lebanon's democratically-elected government led by Prime Minister Siniora.

Any attempt to destabilize Lebanon's democratically-elected government through such tactics as manufactured demonstrations and violence, or by physically threatening its leaders would, at the very least, be a clear violation of Lebanon's sovereignty and United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1559, 1680, and 1701.

There are indications that one goal of the Syrian plan is to prevent the current Lebanese government from approving the statute for an international tribunal that would try those accused of involvement in former Prime Minister Hariri's assassination. Any such effort to sideline the tribunal will fail, however, for the international community can proceed with establishing it no matter what happens internally in Lebanon. The United States is committed to working with its international partners and the legitimate Government of Lebanon to ensure that the tribunal is quickly established and that all those responsible for the assassinations of Rafiq Hariri and other Lebanese patriots since 2005 are brought to justice.


State Department Spokesman on Lebanon

Department of State

Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
November 1, 2006

QUESTION: On Lebanon.

MR. MCCORMACK: On Lebanon, yeah.

QUESTION: There's a couple of things going on. The White House put out a very strong statement --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Saw that.

QUESTION: -- talking about -- warning Iran and Syria not to make efforts to topple the government and talked about indications and evidence that this is happening. Could you talk a little bit about what this evidence is that they're -- that they are trying to topple the government and if this is a result of the meetings that the Secretary had this week with some of the --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, actually, and I'll try to talk about it as much as I possibly can. But I think you'll understand that there are certain strictures on that just because we gather and collect information in a lot of different ways. But first I would point out Secretary Rice actually herself talked about this during a Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation interview she had with May Chidiak, the victim of terror and the victim of an assassination attempt in Lebanon, so you go back and check the transcript on that. And John Bolton has also talked about this.

There's a limited amount that I can say about this. Suffice it to say we do have real concerns. You saw from the White House statement it's a pretty direct statement and it's a pretty stark statement. But we believe it's merited based on what have seen going on in the region. You have had a couple of data -- public data points for you, though.

You had a recent speech by Nasrallah, I think within the past day or so, demanding the Siniora government take certain steps or Nasrallah and his compatriots would see that it falls.

You had President Lahoud talk about taking steps to block the formation of a criminal tribunal that would bring to justice those who might be accused of participating or being responsible for former Prime Minister Hariri's death. It certainly gives the appearance of trying to obstruct justice.

So -- and you look at the various connections that are here. Quite clearly, Hezbollah has its patrons in Damascus and certainly in Tehran. This is an organization that has shown that it has very few boundaries concerning what it will do and what it won't do. The most recent example is the fact that it started a war in the region, started -- you know, this group started a war with a sovereign state.

So it would seem that the benefactors of this group will stop at nothing to achieve their ends. And what they don't want to see -- what they don't want to see -- is a stable, peaceful, democratic Lebanon because that is antithetical to their point of view and antithetical to how they want to see the region develop.

It is -- the conflict that Hezbollah started was tragic in that so many innocent lives were lost. But it did provide a clarifying moment in the Middle East. And very clearly you can see on one side -- one side of the line you have Hezbollah, groups like Hamas and their sponsors in Damascus and Tehran, who want to take the region in a completely different direction than the great majority of people in that region would seem to want to take it. And that is towards greater freedom, greater prosperity and more peace. These are groups that don't want to see, for example, peace between Israelis and Palestinians. These are groups that don't want to see issues between Lebanon and Israel resolved over the long term.

So that's -- that is one of the reasons why we put out the statement today and why Secretary Rice has talked about it because we want to make it absolutely clear that the United States stands firmly with the government of Prime Minister Siniora, a government who has -- which has worked very hard to, under difficult circumstances, coming out, emerging from the shadow of 20 years of Syrian occupation, to try to do its best to lay the foundations for a democratic, peaceful, secure Lebanon, which is in the interest of the Lebanese people and everybody in the region.

QUESTION: Sean.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Michel.

QUESTION: What can you do to prevent the collapse of a Siniora government?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, ultimately, what we can do is try to as best we can support Prime Minister Siniora politically, diplomatically, you know, economically. This is the elected Government -- Government of Lebanon. All that said, we don't, you know, we're not going to -- we're not going to interfere in Lebanon's domestic politics. What we don't want to see is others interfering in Lebanon's domestic politics. And I'm afraid that's -- that is our fear. You know, our fear is that you have a group like Hezbollah, which very clearly derives much support not only from Damascus but from Tehran, and you also have other forces within Lebanon allied with these external -- external patrons.

So the concern is from us as well as others is that you will see once again an attempt to turn back the clock and have the -- yank away from the Lebanese people what they have fought so hard for, and that is the right to determine their own political future. And we don't want to -- we don't want to see the clock turn back to the days when Syria occupied Lebanon or even to a state of being where you have outside governments essentially pulling the strings in Lebanon and dictating what happens.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) I think address is whether you have seen evidence of either Syria or Iran either helping to rearm or facilitating the rearmament of Hezbollah.

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, that falls into the category of we -- you know, we collect a lot of information that I can't talk about. Just suffice it to say it's something that would be of grave concern to us as well as others in that it would be a clear violation and transgression of Security Council Resolution 1701.

QUESTION: Well, Terje Roed-Larsen told the Security Council and then told reporters afterwards that there is evidence that they were smuggling arms.

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll let Mr. Larsen speak to it.

QUESTION: Is that your --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to talk about information that we may have.

QUESTION: Sean.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Same subject?

QUESTION: A follow-up on this.

MR. MCCORMACK: Go ahead.

QUESTION: You can't do anything to stop Syria and Iran from interfering in the Lebanese internal affairs?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, one of the things you can do is to ensure that they know the world is watching and that the world will not stand for that kind of -- a renewal of that kind of behavior. And one thing I'm sure that they would like is to operate below the radar screen so that people aren't aware of these things. And one of the reasons why the Secretary made the statements that she did, why the White House put out this statement, is we want to make it clear that we are concerned about these things and also we, as well as others, are watching very closely.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Tony Blair sent an envoy, I think Monday, to Syria.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Was there any collaboration with the United States on that visit perhaps to apply pressure? I know, you know, reports suggest that they were talking about Iraq, but was there any pressure applied by the British on this issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: We -- I'll let the British Government speak to Mr. Shinewald's trip, but we certainly know about the trip. We know the message he was sending to the Syrian Government.

Yeah.

QUESTION: When you say that the world will be watching, but what else can you do? What -- I mean, to be watching is maybe not enough to prevent it.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, again Sylvie, we will do everything that we can. Part of the effort is to shine a spotlight on these efforts and to support those who want to preserve a free, stable, democratic Lebanon.

QUESTION: Sean, just to follow up on what you just said, you said we know the message sent to the Syrian Government. Does that mean specifically to what the White House statement suggested today or just any --

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm going to let the Brits speak for themselves on this. Okay?

QUESTION: What did Jumblatt provide -- sort of information about this mounting evidence of Syria and Iranian interference? Is that one of the reasons why the White House decided to release a statement because of the Secretary's discussions with Jumblatt? Did he provide more information or --

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I haven't talked to the Secretary about her meeting with Mr. Jumblatt. I do know that they did talk about the situation in Lebanon, but I can't give you a specific answer, Sue, and I can't draw a cause-and-effect relation between the meeting and that. But again, go back and look at what the Secretary said in her interview with May Chidiac.

QUESTION: On Sri Lanka. There is renewed violence. The Sri Lankan Air Force has bombed Tamil Tiger targets, and I wonder if this is for the State Department an unwelcome escalation in the conflict after the peace talks fell apart in Geneva?

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me see if I can get more information for you on that matter. We'll try to post an answer for you.

QUESTION: Sean.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is there any consideration to provide the Lebanese army with weapons or any assistance?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, part of the whole implementation of 1701 is to help train up and help equip the Lebanese army. Now we, ourselves, committed to -- I can't remember the figure right now. I think it's on the order of $10 million for training. That doesn't mean U.S. soldiers going there to train them but just training outside of Lebanon. And others have stepped up in that regard. I can't provide the details for you, but there -- that is a component of implementation of 1701 because you want to get to a state eventually where you have the Lebanese army fully functioning and fully able to control all of its territory and meet the requirements of 1701. They can't do that right now, so UNIFIL is there. But that's part of the goal, part of the long-term plan.


Interview With May Chidiac of Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
October 26, 2006

(2:15 p.m. EDT)

QUESTION: Former Secretary of State James Baker wrote in his memoir that it was time for some equity in the Middle East, but it remains an unsolvable problem. How do you comment on that? Do you still see the Middle East as an unsolvable problem? Is it time for some equity over there?

SECRETARY RICE: I think the Middle East is a solvable problem because the people of the Middle East want a better life. And the United States is absolutely dedicated to trying to solve the problems of the Middle East. I think it's true that for so many years we looked to a Middle East and we talked only about stability. We didn't talk about the rights of people to live in freedom and liberty. And obviously there are many places that have not yet had the chance to see the hope and the promise of living in freedom, but things are changing in the Middle East. I know that they are turbulent and difficult, but I think, and for the most part, things are changing for the better.

QUESTION: They are changing in a positive way, you think?

SECRETARY RICE: There are many things that are changing positively. It's hard to see when you see every day so much violence and so much difficulty. And for the people of the Middle East I know that some days getting up must just be difficult. But when you think about some of the things that have happened; in Lebanon for instance, you have now a democratic government in Lebanon, the Syrian forces are gone after 30 years of occupation of Lebanon. And even though it's very hard and very difficult, Lebanon has a chance at a true democratic future where all Lebanese can be represented. And so that's an example of positive change even as difficult as it was with the war this summer.

QUESTION: So allow me to ask you some more questions concerning Lebanon.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes.

QUESTION: You paid a visit to Lebanon and the region during the July war waged by Israel. Do you think this war has achieved its goal through Resolution 1701?

SECRETARY RICE: Resolution 1701 was a remarkable coming together of the international system, the international community, to try and make sure that the conditions that produced the war in the summer would not be produced again. And so Hezbollah, which as a state within a state had launched an attack across the international blue line, the Lebanese Government knew nothing of the fact that that attack was going to take place, and that then plunged the entire country and the region into a chaotic war.

The outcome of that war -- and there was great human cost and we have to recognize that there was great human cost. But now when we look at the situation, we see the Lebanese army in control of the entire country. That's the first time in decades that the Lebanese army has been in control of the country. We see an international community committed to the reconstruction of Lebanon. That is very important. And we see an international process for resolving some of the political issues between Israel and Lebanon that have long plagued the relationship.

QUESTION: The Lebanese criticized you when you were in Lebanon for talking about new political arrangements in Lebanon about a division between the Shiites and about possible assassinations against the 14th of March Coalition. On what basis do you speak of divisions between the Shiites and do you have specific information about the assassinations?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, in turns of divisions, I wouldn't talk about divisions between the Shia. The Shia are like any people; they have many different voices and many different views. The issue is between extremists who want one kind of life in Lebanon and who find their support in places like Iran, and people who want a democratic Lebanon that speaks to Lebanese voices.

Now, in terms of -- we know that Lebanon has unfortunately had too many assassinations, too many tragic circumstances. You know that better than any. And so the evidence is there that foreign influences have -- ever since the assassination of the former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri -- have tried to use assassination and intimidation against the Lebanese people. But the Lebanese people are very resilient people, and they keep coming back to their desire to have a democratic future and to live together, not to be driven again into civil war. We worry these days that --

QUESTION: But no specific information about the assassinations?

SECRETARY RICE: You get information from time to time that there are forces that would want to do this. But if there is specific information, of course, we will pass it on to the Lebanese so that they can try and guard against it.

QUESTION: We heard about new list.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we too have heard that there are people who would like to destabilize the government of Prime Minister Siniora. We've heard that there are people who would like to intimidate or assassinate again. They've done it before in Lebanon.

QUESTION: Well, what about (inaudible) --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's not any great secret that there are concerns about what Syria, which once occupied the country, might try and do through continuing contacts in the country. But I don't want to accuse any one place; I just want to make very clear that the international community believes there should be no foreign intimidation of the Lebanese people.

QUESTION: In your visit to the region also during the July war and during the meetings you had with Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, you made sure to include the Shebaa Farms issue in the proposal package you presented. What does Resolution 1701 offer on the Shebaa Farm issue, and how could the Shebaa Farms be returned to Lebanon?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first, Shebaa Farms is still a question of delineation of the line. It was by the UN declared to be Syrian. And so that needs to be resolved. It is also an issue that the Secretary General has been charged by the Security Council resolution with finding a way to resolve this issue. And so we await the report of the Secretary General on how he would propose to deal with the Shebaa Farms situation. But we should remember that there was a delineation of it to Syria and that will have to be resolved one way or another.

QUESTION: And Syria is announcing now that it's Lebanese land.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, one day they say it's Lebanese; the next day they say it's Syrian. Let's see that if Syria is willing once and for all to say that it is Lebanese.

QUESTION: And what do you need from them to assure that these lands are --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it would be very helpful if when the Secretary General comes that Syria would be prepared to delineate all of its border with Lebanon. You know, in Resolution 1559 it was required that there be a delineation of the border. It would be useful if there would be an exchange of ambassadors, as normal states do. There are many things that Syria could do to increase international confidence that it accepts fully Lebanese sovereignty and Lebanese authority over Lebanese territory.

QUESTION: Will the UNIFIL troops get some help to achieve this goal?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the UNIFIL troops are really there, first of all, to assist the Lebanese army in returning to control of the entire country. They are there to make sure that Hezbollah cannot go back to the border locations that -- from which it started the war. They are there to protect Lebanon and to make sure that security is maintained while the Lebanese army is being improved and reformed so that it can do the job completely. And there are also major efforts underway to improve the Lebanese army.

QUESTION: Could there be a swap for returning the Shebaa Farms and finding a solution for Hezbollah's arms?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, Hezbollah -- the disarmament of militias is an obligation that the Lebanese Government has as a result of Resolution 1559 and 1701. These are not issues, I think, that require linkage. I think we should try to resolve them all. And the reason that it's important to get rid of militias is that it's really very hard to have a democratic system in which one element of the government is armed but it isn't armed as a part of the state. The state should have a monopoly on arms.

QUESTION: And the Shebaa Farms are the pretext now to --

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, but -- but pretext is -- we shouldn't accept pretext. We should recognize that if Hezbollah wants to be in politics, then on that principle Hezbollah should disarm because you cannot have one foot in terror and the use of violence, and the other foot in politics. It just doesn't work that way. And the international community should insist on that. The Lebanese should insist on it.

QUESTION: Hezbollah is refusing to be disarmed before Shebaa Farm returns and it becomes Lebanese land and before the exchange of prisoners and detainees. What do you say about this?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it was at one point just Shebaa Farms. Hezbollah will find lots of excuses not to disarm if they're allowed to find excuses. The fact is there is an obligation in Resolution 1559 and then in Resolution 1701 that Hezbollah disarm.

Lebanon needs one security force that reports to the Lebanese Government. Now, Hezbollah has ministers in the Lebanese Government, which means that they're participating in the politics. They should participate in the politics and get rid of the arms and let the Lebanese army and the Lebanese security forces defend Lebanese interests. That's the way normal states work.

QUESTION: And if they do not agree? You will use force -- the UNIFIL will force --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, this is not a part of the UNIFIL mandate, and no one expects UNIFIL to do this. This is something that Lebanon has to resolve within its political context.

QUESTION: So you are counting on the Lebanese army?

SECRETARY RICE: I'm counting on Lebanon to live up to its obligations. I'm counting on Lebanon to want to evolve to a normal state. And a normal state has an army and police that answer to the state, not to a state within a state.

QUESTION: Okay. What about the old fights between USA and Hezbollah, mainly the bombing of the Marines Headquarters and the two U.S. Embassies (inaudible) and the kidnapping of its (inaudible) plane and hostage taking? If Hezbollah lays down on his arms, would you pledge to disregard these old trials? Would you guarantee that Israel won't try to eliminate the party's leader? What are the guarantees?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, Hezbollah -- Lebanon has an obligation to disarm Hezbollah in any case. The United States doesn't forget people who kill Americans. No, we don't forget and we don't intend to forget, because this is a terrorist organization that did this. Hezbollah has to decide whether it's going to maintain its terrorist wing and remain a terrorist organization or whether it's going to become fully a part of the political process. This is a long process. But, no, we're not going to forget that Americans were killed.

QUESTION: And what will be the consequences if you don't forget concerning the Hezbollah?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think it is best just to talk about the American position here, which is that we will never -- there are legal -- there is legal recourse. There are all kinds of ways to deal with the fact that Americans were killed by Hezbollah. But no, we are never going to simply wipe it away and forget that Americans were killed.

QUESTION: And if this, what you're saying right now, make them afraid about the future about how to deal with the Lebanese Government maybe and the U.S. in the future?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that we believe very much in international law. We believe in people being brought to justice for crimes that were committed against other people. And no, the United States Government is never going to simply forget that Americans were killed. But we can certainly rely on processes that are legal processes to deal with these issues.

QUESTION: Will the UN peacekeeping troops undertake air surveillance over Lebanon to put an end to the Israeli constant violations of the Lebanese air space? Anyway, according to German defense ministry, a clash took place two days ago between a German warship and two Israeli airplanes in front of the Lebanese coast. How do you comment on that?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, certainly we are looking into what happened there. The -- we've always said that there are certain fragile aspects to this ceasefire and having people still -- military forces in close proximity means that there are dangers of clashes.

We think that the responsibility for the monitoring of the arms embargo, for assuring that Hezbollah will not be rearmed, it should be the responsibility of the Lebanese Government with the help of the international community. But there has to be an effective way of doing it. There has to be an effective way of making sure that the arms embargo is not being violated. We've told the Israelis that they should not make overflights, that in fact they should rely on the international community, but they need to be able to rely on the international community and on Lebanon so Lebanon here can exercise its responsibilities on the arms embargo.

QUESTION: But Israel and especially the Defense Minister Amir Perez has said that the Israelis will overflight over Lebanon and this will continue.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we need both -- everyone, all parties now -- to work within the context of Resolution 1701. It's very clear where the responsibility for monitoring the arms embargo and making sure that arms are not being shipped to Hezbollah rests. It rests with the Lebanese Government. But the Lebanese Government is not yet fully exercising that responsibility and that authority. It needs more help from the international community, especially concerning the land border. I think things are working relatively well at sea and at the airport, but there needs to be more done to make sure that the arms embargo is being respected. We are looking, for instance, at whether or not in the United Nations there might a committee that could help oversee this.

QUESTION: Okay. President Bush pledged $230 million to support Lebanon and contributions to the Lebanese army. When will these contributions begin and what is the extent of your support for the Lebanese army? Do you think the Paris III donors conference will succeed and is it a substitute for the Beirut I conference that was planned for in New York?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Well, it's not a substitute, but obviously it'll be important. Paris will be the central conference and I think everybody looks forward to that conference. In terms of support for the Lebanese armed forces, we're working out the means by which we can be involved in helping the Lebanese armed forces. The Europeans are doing the same thing. A number of Arab states are planning to help with the reform and equipping of the Lebanese armed forces. The Lebanese armed forces now have tremendous responsibilities, and the international community wants the Lebanese armed forces to be competent and capable and able to carry out the responsibilities.

QUESTION: So they will receive all the help they need?

SECRETARY RICE: They should receive and I think they will receive the help that they need. In terms of the reconstruction though, the United States has also made contributions to reconstruction and will make larger contributions to reconstruction. We have a private sector effort as well. We had American CEOs in Lebanon talking about a private sector effort. And I think together you will see the United States make an exceptional contribution to rebuilding Lebanon.

QUESTION: Okay. On another issue, can you confirm that the investigation in former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's assassination will be carried through, that the perpetrators will be unveiled and brought to justice?

SECRETARY RICE: They must be unveiled and brought to justice. And it is really the responsibility of the international community to make sure that they are. The -- we are working now with the Lebanese. The UN is working with the Lebanese to find a way to conduct a tribunal to know how to do that. The Brammertz investigation is continuing. It continues under a strict Security Council resolution that requires cooperation of all member-states, including Syria, with that investigation. And it needs to be completed and the perpetrators need to be found and brought to justice.

QUESTION: Okay. Is the Syrian regime threatened by the investigation, this investigation, and could there be a deal in this matter allowing Syria to make concessions in Iraq and Lebanon in exchange of limiting the accusations and protecting the head of the regime?

SECRETARY RICE: There cannot be a deal about the Rafik Hariri assassination. The people who did that, people who are responsible for it, have to be brought to justice. And on this one, it has to be whoever was involved in that has to be brought to justice. There can't be -- and the United States wouldn't want to participate in some kind of side deal that says, well, if you do this, maybe we'll shield you from the investigation. That would be wrong.

QUESTION: Do you think that we'll reach some results by the end of this year or we have to wait till --

SECRETARY RICE: That is certainly the hope is that it will be by the end of the year. Mr. Brammertz is a good prosecutor and he keeps his cards very close to his chest. We don't know where he is in the investigation. But I hope it will be wrapped up soon.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you confirm concerning President Lahoud's mandate? Soon it will be -- it will come to an end. Already there's talk about the presidency and the need for electing a new president. Is the United States interested in the presidential elections in Lebanon?

SECRETARY RICE: We'll have only the following interests: first of all, that the elections be free and fair so that a Lebanese president can be elected who fully represents the Lebanese people. And who becomes -- who's elected president, that's for Lebanon to decide. The United States is not going to be involved in that.

QUESTION: According to the Taif agreement, the president is supposed to be Christian Maronite, but the main concern, and like what was happening during the Syrian hegemony over Lebanon, agreements will be reached between other communities and regional powers -- maybe the USA, too -- and the new president will once again falsely represent the Christians and especially the 14 March Christians. What's your opinion on this issue?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, again, these are internal Lebanese matters. Lebanon is going to be best served by having leaders that represent as many Lebanese as possible and that Lebanese know were selected and elected in a way that was -- had integrity and that was transparent. That's the most important part of this. So we will not have an opinion on who ought to be president of Lebanon.

QUESTION: Even if there are some agreements in the region?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, look, the Lebanese people aren't going to put up with that. The Lebanese people are going to want a Lebanese president that's elected by democratic processes. That's the way it should be. Now, how it relates to Lebanon's constitutional issues and so forth, I leave that to the Lebanese. But Lebanon should be beyond the time of, so to speak, backroom deals. It is really now for Lebanon to take its rightful place as a democracy and to elect its leaders.

QUESTION: Speaker of Lebanese parliament Nabih Berri called for a national dialogue to discuss changes in the government in order to create the so-called unity government and prepare a new parliamentary election, ignoring the July war and ignoring the demands of the March 14 forces which called for the election of a new president and the disarmament of the Hezbollah. Do you believe that this will escalate tensions in Lebanon again?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that it should not escalate tensions. All Lebanese need to step back and realize that the political system needs to reflect the interests of the Lebanese. Now, whatever kind of government there is going to be in Lebanon, that's for the Lebanese to decide. I do want everyone to understand how much admiration and respect there is internationally, in the international community, for this government, for the government of Prime Minister Siniora and his ministers. They brought this country through a difficult war. They negotiated an agreement to end the war that was favorable to Lebanon. They have put Lebanese issues on the international agenda for resolution, issues like the Shebaa issue. And so this is a government that has a lot of respect in the international community.

QUESTION: Thank you. Concerning Syria, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak refused to push Syria to collapse and warned against a regime change in Syria because, as he said, the alternative may represent a great menace to the national security in the whole region. Is this fear of the alternative or its inexistence, what is keeping this regime alive and does this regime have a specific function on the American policies agenda in the region?

SECRETARY RICE: We would like to see a Syrian regime that was really devoted to helping stabilize the Middle East, that was devoted to not interfering in Lebanese affairs, that was trying to stop terrorists from going into Iraq, that was not giving safe haven to terrorist groups in Syria, that would support Abu Mazen in his efforts to find a way out of the political crisis that the Palestinians have now, that would encourage the release of the Israeli soldiers in Lebanon and in the Palestinian territories so that that process could move forward. We look for a change in Syrian behavior and this regime is not doing very much at all now -- it's doing a great deal to destabilize the region rather than to stabilize it.

QUESTION: Do you support the Syrian opposition?

SECRETARY RICE: There should always be opposition, and in Syria too. The Syrian people deserve a democratic life, a democratic future, just like all the people of the Middle East do.

QUESTION: Concerning Palestine, do you have any intention to support the Hamas-led government by (inaudible) on the Palestinians? Isn't Hamas success in the elections proof of your polices' failure in the region?

SECRETARY RICE: In fact, Hamas' selection -- success in the elections was tied to Hamas' argument that they would be less corrupt and more effective than the Fatah government would be, and then they came to power and we recognized the legitimacy of the election. They then came to power and they've not been able to govern. And why have they not been able to govern? They've not been able to govern because they refused to accept international standards, international agreements that the Palestinians signed on to more than a decade ago, the Arab consensus even about how to deal with the Palestinian-Israeli issue, the very right of Israel to exist.

And because they've been unwilling to accept this, they've not been able to engage the international community and they've not been able to get the kind of international assistance that the world would like very much to be giving to the Palestinian people. So we're supporting Abu Mazen, who is signed on to and does believe in a two-state solution, and we'll continue to do so. But the Palestinians need to resolve their internal situation and get a government that has international acceptance.

QUESTION: And in Iraq there was rumored that former Secretary James Baker will propose a compromise between the status quo and getting out of Iraq, that he is for a gradual withdrawal from Iraq and for stability and security before democracy. How true are these rumors?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I -- we will see what the Baker-Hamilton Commission report is. I'm not going to try to comment on what are rumors about what they might do. But the President of the United States is dedicated to staying to help the Iraqis to create the foundations for a democratic future.

Iraqis have work to do, too, though. They need to solve their political differences between the various groups. They need to come up with laws that protect the interests and the rights of all Iraqis. And I'm quite sure that when they do that, they're going to have tremendous support from the international community.

QUESTION: Concerning Iran, is Iran on the way of producing a nuclear bomb as in the case of North Korea? Do you think that your leniency on the North Korean front encouraged Iran to pursue its own nuclear program?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, I think on North Korea, North Korea -- if the Iranians are watching, they've seen a North Korea that has just been hit hard by the international community: a resolution that is a Chapter 7 resolution that mandates that states will do everything they can to prevent the North Koreans from getting -- from proceeding with their nuclear weapons program. There are sanctions against North Korea. And those sanctions were joined by China, which has long been North Korea's friend and ally. And Iran will face sanctions, too, in the international community for its defiance. But sanctions are only there to provide an option to provide pressure for negotiations.

QUESTION: What can be the other options?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, all options are available. Not all options are good, but all options are available. And so the most important thing for Iran, I think, is to accept the very generous package that was given to them by the six parties through Javier Solana, the EU High Representative. They could accept that package any day. They could have civil nuclear power. The Iranian Government is fond of telling their people that the international --

QUESTION: And this means that they have enough time?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, they can accept at any time, at any time. But the issue of sanctions is moving along, but they can accept that. That is open to them at any time.

QUESTION: There is not a dead end?

SECRETARY RICE: They can always accept to come back, stop enrichment and reprocessing and enter negotiations.

QUESTION: Last question, Ms. Rice. Could you be the Republicans' candidate for the U.S. presidency? Could you compete with Hillary Clinton if she was put up as the candidate for the Democratic Party?

SECRETARY RICE: I can't be because I don't want to be. I don't. I think anybody who wants to run for President is remarkable, and I'm very pleased, but not me. Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: It was a real pleasure.

QUESTION: Thank you for this interview.

SECRETARY RICE: It was a pleasure. Thank you.

Released on October 30, 2006