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Armitage says diplomacy the best path on Iran -

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Armitage says diplomacy the best path on Iran issue

Reporter: Maxine McKew

MAXINE McKEW: George W Bush's November re-election still has allies guessing about the thrust of
foreign policy.

Will the President use his second term to consolidate or to pursue an even more ambitious agenda?

High on the list of concerns - the need to forge a workable solution for Israelis and Palestinians,
what to do about Iran's nuclear ambitions and North Korea.

As regards the latter, there's already talk in some Washington circles about the need for regime
change in Pyongyang.

When it comes to Canberra, our Foreign Minister will be dealing with a new secretary of state,
Condoleezza Rice.

She replaces the outgoing Colin Powell.

Also heading out the door is Richard Armitage, Powell's deputy, and someone so well connected in
this part of the world that he's regarded as an honorary Aussie.

Just ahead of his retirement, I spoke with the US assistant secretary of state.

MAXINE McKEW: Richard Armitage, nice to be talking to you again.

RICHARD ARMITAGE, US ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, good evening.

MAXINE McKEW: As you get ready to quit diplomacy, are you convinced there is going to be life after
the State Department?

RICHARD ARMITAGE: (Chuckles) I know there is.

I've watched some of my colleagues go out and prove the fact.

MAXINE McKEW: The fact that you and Secretary Powell are both leaving at the same time at the end
of the first Bush Administration, should anything in particular be read into this?

RICHARD ARMITAGE: No, this was always "buy one, get one free" with Secretary Powell.

We - it's kind of like - I describe Balkan policy in together, out together.

We came to the conclusion that it's a time to stack arms.

Are you familiar with the term?

MAXINE McKEW: Not really.

RICHARD ARMITAGE: Well, your diggers will understand it.

There is a time to carry arms in combat and there is a time to stack arms.

And it's time for us to put a little intellectual capital in the bank.

We've been making withdrawals for four years with no deposits.

It's time to sit back a little bit and put some intellectual deposits into the bank.

MAXINE McKEW: And the new secretary, Condoleezza Rice, how do you think she is going to differ in
style and approach from Secretary Powell?

RICHARD ARMITAGE: Well, she's, I think her coming here is going to be a very good thing.

Her closeness to the President, I think, should be a good signal for the foreign service, to the
State Department.

I think she will be very faithful servant of the President.

And I'm looking for some pretty good things.

She knows all the players internationally.

I don't think there's going to be any fumbles or dropped balls here.

And I'm pretty bullish on this.

MAXINE McKEW: In terms of Washington decision-making, is one of the key issues for this second term
going to be the extent to which all the various agencies and government departments can better
coordinate their activities?

I ask this because, of course, it has been a consistent problem that's been thrown up by all of the
post-September 11 analysis.

RICHARD ARMITAGE: Well, there is no question that we've had our differences with other departments
and they've had their differences with us.

The President won a clear mandate.

I think it's quite natural that he wants to put a team together that will allow him to sort of
change the face of American politics and also change the face of how America is seen overseas.

I know, with great satisfaction, the President's visit to Canada on Tuesday and Wednesday of this
week where he made a big point of the fact that he's going to spend a lot of energy and political
capital in this second term to developing multilateralism.

MAXINE McKEW: Is that something of a regret as you leave this job, that, in fact, there is a
diminution of affection for America around the world, in some places outright hostility?

RICHARD ARMITAGE: Well, I agree with you, there is a diminution of affection, for a lot of
complicated reasons, some of them, actually, not our fault.

Some of them frustrations directed at a lack of transparency in certain country's governments.

But yeah, it concerns me greatly.

I think it is a concern to the President, hence his stated point in Canada that he's going to spend
some serious energy trying to redevelop and reconnect with the world.

MAXINE McKEW: In fact, I think you said on one of your visits to Australia that you regretted that
America had exported a lot of its anger to the rest of the world.

RICHARD ARMITAGE: Yeah, we - traditionally I think Americans support hope and enthusiasm and
opportunity, but after 9-11 it was anger and our fear that we exported.

I think we're coming back to centre a little on that.

We're mindful of the dangers from terrorism.

Certainly our friends in Australia, who have struggled so hard against terrorism themselves, are
mindful of the dangers.

But we have to go on and live in the world and we look forward to playing a proper and appropriate
and good role in the world.

MAXINE McKEW: The big question for allies such as Australia, of course, is the thrust of foreign
policy in this second term.

What do you think we're likely to see - an even more energetic agenda or a period of consolidation?

RICHARD ARMITAGE: I'm not sure how to answer the question.

I think what you will see is an attempt to reach out not only to traditional allies but to develop
our relationship with others.

I think in the Middle East, for instance, there are new circumstances with the death of chairman
Arafat.

There is the possibility that the Palestinian leadership might come forward who is interested in
peace and negotiation with Israel.

So there is a certain flux going on in the international community.

We want to make that a positive change and do our part to make it a better and safer world.

MAXINE McKEW: George W Bush is a president who has set very ambitious goals in terms of foreign
policy, particularly in the Middle East, as you've mentioned there.

His critics, on the other hand, around the world would say they are dangerous goals.

Having worked for him for four years, how confident are you that history will vindicate his
approach?

RICHARD ARMITAGE: I think, if you look at the last four years - I don't want to be solely in the
position of blowing our own horn, but a lot has happened and beyond Afghanistan, which is a great
success, and Iraq.

Libya has changed.

India and Pakistan are in much better positions.

We've had non-proliferation successes, bringing down the AQ Con network.

We've been involved in HIV-AIDS and the search for a cure.

And certainly enormous amounts of money put into the problem in Africa and other places, so there
is a huge positive agenda that has happened in the last four years.

I think it can only be even better in the next four.

We're counting on it.

The Secretary is sure of it, I'm sure of it, as we depart for civilian life.

MAXINE McKEW: The test will be for Iraq.

What would you say will need to have happened by 2008 when the President leaves office if Iraq is
to be seen by the international community as something of a success as opposed to a mess?

RICHARD ARMITAGE: It's a bit messy right now, there's no question about it.

We're continuing to lose soldiers, and Iraqi policemen and National Guard figures are continuing to
die as well, but the nation of Iraq is heading towards elections on January 30, a year after that
they'll have a full-up government elected with a new constitution and I think we will be in a much
better place.

But I don't think I'm in a position to set goals out to 2008.

I'm really a blue-collar worker and come to work each day, just trying to advance the ball a little
bit down the field and I think that's the way you have to look at the situation in Iraq.

It's not going to happen in grand sweeps.

These are small successes, day in and day out.

MAXINE McKEW: How do you judge the situation post-Fallujah?

Has the attack on the city in any way broken the back of the insurgency or is there an argument to
say that some of the key fighters have simply melted away and they will fight somewhere else?

RICHARD ARMITAGE: Well, it's not just a possibility, it is a certainty that the key figures have
disappeared and they will regroup.

I don't think they will want to fight us en masse as they did in Fallujah.

They lost huge numbers of fighters but moreover they lost their laboratories, they lost their
prisons, bomb factories, lost enormous amounts of weapons.

The downside is that in Iraq there are enormous amounts of weapons and other places.

I wouldn't use the term "broken the back" of the insurgency but we hurt them.

We've hurt them in the short-term and now our job is to hurt them in the long-term while
simultaneously bringing up infrastructure and the other positive elements of Iraqi society.

MAXINE McKEW: I would like to move onto the question of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The most recent news of course is that the jailed Fatah leader, Marwan Barghouti, will contest the
Palestinian presidential elections.

What's the State Department's view of this?

RICHARD ARMITAGE: We think it's very problematic, after all, he is in jail.

There is an opportunity here for Palestinian people to pick someone who can lead them out of the
wilderness and I would hope all Palestinians would see that as a real possibility and not try to
divide and to throw some sand up.

A fellow who is in prison running for office seems to be very problematic.

MAXINE McKEW: What of Fatah's rival, Hamas?

At this stage they are sending out some signals that they may want to contest eventual
parliamentary elections.

If that's the case, should Hamas be encouraged?

RICHARD ARMITAGE: Well, Hamas has also said they will boycott these elections.

I don't know from day to day what they intend to do.

But I would hope as they approach the January 9 date that they see the opportunity for Palestinians
is within their grasp to really make a positive difference in the Middle East.

I think Prime Minister Sharon, notwithstanding the difficulties he is having temporarily with his
government, is willing to look for peace.

That was the burden of the message that Secretary Powell received from Prime Minister Sharon during
his recent visit prior to the Sharm al-Sheik conference.

MAXINE McKEW: Still in the region, what about Iran?

How is the United States going to deal over the next couple of years with Iran's nuclear ambitions?

RICHARD ARMITAGE: Very carefully.

MAXINE McKEW: But the US does see Iran as a sponsor of terrorism.

Is the US going to sit by and watch as the Iranians develop nuclear weapons?

RICHARD ARMITAGE: No, we, right now are supportive of the EU3 efforts which have brought about a
temporary suspension in the Iranian nuclear problem.

Our scepticism, our cynicism about Iran is well known and thus far the Iranians have proved us to
be valid and true in our scepticism.

We will watch and be close to the IAEA on the nuclear question.

On the question of terrorism, the Iranian support for Hezbollah remains undiminished and we remain
undiminished in our opposition to that.

We don't wish forever to have a bad relationship with Iran, but from our point of view, they're
involved in just too many activities right now that don't look too good when exposed to the naked
eye.

MAXINE McKEW: Is there something of an unspoken wish that the Israelis will take care of this in
the same way they bombed Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981?

RICHARD ARMITAGE: I think people speculate that are irresponsible, this is not, by the way - the
Iranian situation doesn't lend itself to an Osirak solution as we saw in 1981.

Many of the facilities are underground or disguised and you could never be sure that if you took
such a chance that you would get any, much less most, of the Iranian nuclear program.

The best way to resolve this is through diplomacy.

There has to be, in diplomacy, a bad or tough cop and right now that role is regulated to us.

MAXINE McKEW: As the US sees it, there is of course the other member of the axis of evil - North
Korea.

At the moment we've got the multi party talks with China as a key player.

But how confident can we be of a benign outcome?

RICHARD ARMITAGE: Our problem with North Korea, beyond the abductions of Japanese citizens, is not
with terrorism.

To my knowledge they haven't been involved with acts of terrorism since about 1987 and the bombing
of the Korean airliner.

Our concern with them isn't proliferation, it is the development of both missiles and nuclear
weapons.

We do think they have a couple, at least, of nuclear weapons and obviously we share, along with
five others who are involved - four others, rather, partners in the six-party talks, the desire to
have a denuclearised Peninsula of Korea.

President Bush has a lot of patience on this because he thinks that we're ideally diplomatically
aligned with other friends in the region - Japan, China, Russia and South Korea - and we can bring
about a solution which is one that's diplomatic.

MAXINE McKEW: You would be aware, though, that there is the odd conservative journal in Washington
that is already talking up the need for regime change in Pyongyang.

RICHARD ARMITAGE: The odd conservative journal is welcome to talk about whatever it likes.

The only sitting administration in Washington is not talking about regime change.

MAXINE McKEW: You and Colin Powell are leaving office at a high point in terms of US/Australian
relations.

We've seen the signing of the free trade agreement, joint military operations in both Iraq and
Afghanistan.

Is there an obvious next step in the relationship?

RICHARD ARMITAGE: I would like to think there is.

We have a lot of activity in Asia going on, a lot of it good, a lot of economic activity.

We want to be part of it.

Certainly Australia is very much part of it.

I think through continued consultations, through continued close interaction, we will make sure
that together where appropriate, we can be part of the life of Asia for the benefit of all peoples
in the region.

Beyond that, I'm extraordinarily happy and proud to be part of this US/Australia relationship.

It has been a part of my life since 1967 and it will be part of my life until the Lord takes me
from this mortal coil.

MAXINE McKEW: In the long term, what about the possibility of an all-encompassing security
community in the region, I mean, one that includes players as diverse as Indonesia, China, India
perhaps?

Could you ever see them putting aside their historic rivalries and working towards a common
diplomatic purpose?

RICHARD ARMITAGE: We all strive to - in the first instance, to get people to put aside their
historic rivalries.

That's a pretty large order there and we're making some small steps of progress - especially with
Pakistan and India.

Regarding security architecture in the region, it's something I think that one should consider very
seriously, however, in that consideration one must also realise that unlike Europe and the NATO
architecture, there are different religions, different ethnic groups and certainly different
histories and a lot of neuralgia in the area, so it will be a much more difficult undertaking in
Asia than it has been in Europe.

MAXINE McKEW: Richard Armitage, thanks for your time and good luck for the future.

RICHARD ARMITAGE: The pleasure is mine, Ms McKew.

Thank you.