Asharq Al-Awsat, Cairo – Condoleezza Rice has stated that she visited Egypt to talk about democracy as a friend and not as a judge, adding that she discussed with some Egyptian officials the need for Palestinians to get the necessary humanitarian aid. She also asserted that she came to Cairo to discuss reform and democracy, the stand towards Hamas, the Iraqi issue, the Iranian nuclear dossier, Darfur, and stability in the region.
Speaking at a joint press conference with her Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Abul Gheit, the US secretary of state said that Washington’s stand on democracy was stated firmly in public, to help people everywhere in the world enjoy the same rights. She stressed that Cairo is central to the Arab world and the world, which enables it to be the base for political and economic reform due to the culture and civilization it has.
Rice affirmed that the US administration would continue to discuss the issue of reform with Egypt until more is achieved so that the entire region can develop towards reform. She underlined the need for all humans to have the ability to voice their opinion about those who rule or what they believe in. She added that the United States is not intransigent by imposing conditions for achieving democracy and called for the removal of dictatorships as in Iraq when she said Saddam Hussein’s regime used weapons of mass destruction against its people and neighbors.
Regarding the violations of human rights in Iraq and the torture in jails, Rice said, “The issues of human rights do not come close in comparison to what happened under Saddam Hussein’s rule.”
In reply to a question concerning US attempts to impose democracy on the Middle Eastern countries through political and economic pressure, the demolition of houses and torture in Iraq, and double standards, the US secretary of state answered that the United States wanted to change autocratic governments to elected ones. She mentioned that Washington has some humanitarian demands that the ruling systems should also hold and does not want to impose certain systems but to guarantee liberty for all nations to choose the governments they prefer. She said she had not asked the Arab countries to stop humanitarian aid because she is aware of its importance for the Palestinian people. Rice reiterated that the Palestinian government should recognize the other and declare its commitment to the roadmap and all the agreements signed between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.
Regarding the Iranian nuclear file, Rice said that the United States realized that Iran was dishonest in its claim of peaceful application of nuclear energy. She then pointed out that IAEA Director Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei would present a report to the Security Council on 6 March.
Commenting on this, Minister Abul-Gheit said, “Egypt believes in the universality of preventing nuclear proliferation and the establishment of a weapons-free region, does not accept the presence of any nuclear power in the Middle East, and demands that Israel join the NPT.” He added, “We believe in diplomatic action for dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue.”
In response to a question concerning the case of Ayman Nour, the US secretary of state said that she would meet with representatives of Egyptian civil society organizations and listen to their viewpoints on the recent changes in Egypt. Rice added that the “US-style democracy is not proposed for implementation in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or any other country because each country has its own needs, but we want to ensure that people obtain their rights.”
Regarding the free trade agreement between Egypt and the United States, Rice said, “We are interested in this issue but it needs more discussion.” She admitted that there have been fundamental changes in Egypt since the recent presidential and parliamentary elections.
On Israel’s nuclear weapons, Rice said, “We hope to see the region free from weapons but the main problem is Iran.”
Regarding Iraq, Rice said that Washington “wants an Iraqi government that restores balance to the Iraqi people and to close the file of the former dictator who ruled Iraq.”
As for the Darfur matter, she said, “We are eager to send more forces. The aim is not to exclude the African Union forces but to have UN and NATO forces helping them.”