WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has rejected a bipartisan panel’s recommendation that the Bush administration engage Syria and Iran in efforts to stabilize Iraq, The Washington Post reported on Friday.
The “compensation” required for any such deal might be too high, Rice told the paper in an interview.
Rice said she did not want to trade away Lebanese sovereignty to Syria or allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon as a price for peace in Iraq, the Post reported.
She also argued that neither Syria nor Iran should need incentives to help achieve stability in Iraq, the Post reported.
“If they have an interest in a stable Iraq, they will do it anyway,” Rice said.
The bipartisan Iraq Study Group included talks with Iran and Syria among its key recommendations it presented to the White House last week for dealing with the worsening chaos in Iraq.
The group, led by former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton, urged that its report be adopted as a whole.
President George W. Bush is reviewing policy in Iraq and plans to outline a shift in course early next year.
Rice told The Washington Post that Bush could be “quite expansive” in the policy review and that the new plan would be a “departure.” However, she told the newspaper that Bush would not radically change any of his long-term goals or commitment to Iraq.
Rice said the administration’s goal over the next two years was to help Iraqis marginalize extremists and create a moderate middle that can hold the country together, the Post reported.
The newspaper said she acknowledged that violence may not have ended before the administration leaves office in about two years’ time, but said she hopes that Iraqis would “get to a place that is sustainable” by the end of 2008.
Rice also said the administration would not retreat from its push to promote democracy in the Middle East and reiterated her commitment to pursuing peace between Palestinians and Israelis, the Post said.
“Get ready. We are going to the Middle East a lot,” Rice said.