Financial Times: The Bush administration’s changing of the guard at the State Department was almost complete yesterday as Colin Powell bid an emotional farewell to his staff just as senators were wrapping up their grilling of Condoleezza Rice, the next secretary of state. Speaking of the foreign policy challenges ahead, Mr Powell said the focus was on … Financial Times
By Guy Dinmore in Washington
The Bush administration’s changing of the guard at the State Department was almost complete yesterday as Colin Powell bid an emotional farewell to his staff just as senators were wrapping up their grilling of Condoleezza Rice, the next secretary of state.
Speaking of the foreign policy challenges ahead, Mr Powell said the focus was on persuading North Korea and Iran to take a “better way” and give up their nuclear weapons programme.
Over at the Senate, Ms Rice was testifying that the Bush administration saw no common ground with the Islamic regime in Iran. She signalled the US had no intention of offering a specific deal based on an end to Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
In a last round of questioning before the Senate foreign relations committee voted 16-2 in favour of her nomination by George W. Bush as secretary of state, Ms Rice took a hard line on Iran. But she steered away from speaking about regime change.
“The United States government has often, as the president said, supported regimes in the hope that they would bring stability,” she said. “And we’ve been in the Middle East, sometimes blind to the freedom deficit in the hope that they would bring stability. We’re not going to do that any more.”
Joseph Biden, the senior Democrat on the committee, said he voted for her with reluctance and hesitation, saying she had failed to level with the American people. Only Barbara Boxer, Californian senator, and John Kerry, the defeated presidential candidate, voted against.
Ms Rice acknowledged that some bad decisions had been made over Iraq, but said history would judge the overall outcome. Under fire from Ms Boxer for a second day, Ms Rice effectively acknowledged that the US had made a mistake cutting deals with Saddam Hussein in the late 1980s when he had launched gas attacks on the Kurds while Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, was the special envoy to Baghdad.
Ms Rice effectively ruled out the US taking the European approach of engaging Iran.
Mr Biden pressed Ms Rice to say whether the US could reach an agreement with Iran’s clerical regime if it gave up nuclear weapons. “I’m not going to get into hypotheticals,” she answered, and said the US had to look at the “totality of the issue”, referring to the issues of terrorism and human rights.
“Senator, what we have said to the Iranians is look at the Libyan example,” she said, arguing that Libya had decided to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction “without a promise of specific deals”.
Senior officials from the UK, France and Germany are to visit Washington early next week to press the Bush administration to take a positive approach to the nuclear negotiations with Iran initiated by the European Union. Joschka Fischer, Germany’s foreign minister, is due to meet Ms Rice in Washington on Tuesday.
The full Senate is expected to vote for Ms Rice’s confirmation today.