News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqRice says U.S. would consider meeting Iran

Rice says U.S. would consider meeting Iran

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AP: The United States has not ruled out talks with Iran about Iraq, but any discussions would not cover Tehran’s disputed nuclear program, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday. Associated Press

By ANNE GEARAN

AP Diplomatic Writer

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) – The United States has not ruled out talks with Iran about Iraq, but any discussions would not cover Tehran’s disputed nuclear program, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday.

“This is not a negotiation of some kind,” Rice said after meeting with Australia’s prime minister, John Howard.

She did not give a timeline for potential talks and indicated they would involve only the U.S. ambassador in Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad.

Iran offered on Thursday to begin talks with the United States aimed at stabilizing Iraq. It was the first time the Islamic republic has agreed to negotiate with the superpower it calls the “Great Satan.”

Discussing the military operation Thursday in which U.S. and Iraqi troops swept north from Baghdad, Rice indicated that intelligence on insurgent activity in Samarra led to the show of force.

When the military has “reason to believe” that a strike will flush out insurgents, Rice said, “then the military does that.” She cited long-standing concerns about Samarra as an insurgent hotbed.

The chief U.S. diplomat told a university audience that history would determine the verdict on the U.S.-led war that ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

“I’m quite aware that there are those who disagree about the decision that we would overthrow Saddam Hussein,” Rice said. She responded to a student who cited opinion polls showing more than 60 percent of Australians have a negative view of the U.S. and its foreign policy.

“I’m quite aware that there are those who believe that he should have been given more time, who believe that we could have contained him,” Rice said.

President Bush and his advisers thought that because of Saddam’s behavior and the failure of international penalties to thwart him, “it was time to deal with that situation,” she said.

During Bush’s first term, Rice was his national security adviser and an architect of the 2003 invasion.

Rice was twice shouted down by protesters as she spoke to students from several Australian universities gathered at Sydney University’s music school.

“Condoleezza Rice, you’re a war criminal,” a young man shouted minutes after she began her address. “Iraqi blood is on your hands and you can’t wash that blood away,” he repeated until guards led him away.

Rice drew applause with her response: “I’m glad to see that democracy is well and alive at the university,” she said, adding that democracy is now also alive at universities in Kabul, Afghanistan and Baghdad, Iraq.

A second protester stood later and yelled that Rice is a murderer.

She said the administration could have confined its response to the Sept. 11 terror attacks to an assault on the al-Qaida terror network, but she suggested history shows that would have been shortsighted.

“I think the outcome, the judgment, of all of this needs to await history,” Rice said.

Ahead of Sunday’s third anniversary of the invasion, Australia said this week it would keep troops in Iraq at least well into next year and announced a larger mission for about 450 troops now stationed in southern Iraq.

Earlier Thursday, Rice said China must be more open about its military buildup and play by international economic rules as its influence grows around the world.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said China publishes papers on its defense, is open about spending and has increased military exchanges with other countries.

Although Rice noted U.S.-Chinese cooperation on international problems such as the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran, she lists U.S. complaints about Chinese policies:

“It’s economy needs to continue to open, it needs to pay attention to intellectual property rights, it needs to pay attention to the effect of not having at this point a currency that is market based,” Rice said, adding that much of the country’s economy is still controlled by the state.

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